Introduction to: Disabled Representation Tips & Reviews

Originally, I had planned for this to be a My Nugget of Wisdom for the Week post recommending black, disabled bloggers and YouTubers to do my part in supporting the current movement. However, I was shocked to find how little of them there were out there, or at least how hard they were to find. Unfortunately, I struggled to find enough to share and in the end, had to give up on the idea. I still would like to say how proud I am of the community for stepping up and helping to support more black artists and fight for their equality.


It’s 2020, the year for representation and pride. Society is now full of black representations, strong female representations, LGBTQIA+ representations and… disabled representations? It sometimes feels like after the Paralympics people forget that we even exist – specifically in the TV and media world. It’s true that the odd wheelchair side character or extra in the background often appears for ‘ample diversity scenery’, but hardly ever main characters. So I decided to start a new series on my blog called Disabled Representation Tips & Reviews:

Penny Pocket from the children’s TV show Balamory

Ever since I became a teenager I’ve been doing everything within my power to change this. When I was fourteen, I used to email numerous kid’s channels like Nickelodeon and Disney Channel every month to try and pitch them the idea of having a sitcom with the main character in a wheelchair. It would be interesting and would probably do a lot of good in erasing ignorance about disabilities among children. If there is any place where disabled representation is extremely necessary: it’s in children’s media.

Fast forward a few years and I’m now designing my own disabled superheroes and trying to write a diverse Young-Adult novel with realistic disabled representations. My friend once said that they found it disappointing that black directors ‘limit themselves’ by often directing predominantly ‘black films’ about black culture using mainly black actors. I responded: ‘Yeah, but who else will?’ I hope to write professionally one day (whether it be for films or novels) and of course, when I do I’m going to include strong disabled representation in my writing. Because the sad truth is: not enough people are including them. I don’t care if it ‘limits’ me or makes my work less mainstream – It needs to be out there if we want a change in how society views disabilities.

 So, I plan on doing much more about representation on my blog:

  • I’m going to start reviewing popular disabled representation in books and films. I’d love to hear any suggestions or recommendations for what you would like me to review. It can be anything: representation in books, anime, TV shows, films, etc.
  • I plan on writing some short posts with some quick representation tips
  • I also want to open up my blog as a platform for #OwnVoices writing. If any writer is thinking of writing a book with a disabled character in it (which I highly recommend) I would love to review the representation or give advice on what life would be like for that character, so that you can be sure that the representation is accurate.

Remember that around one billion people in the world are disabled, so if someone writes a book or a film script set in a large town with no disabled characters – it’s actually rather unrealistic. Diversity is all around us: if modern media continues to show a world where everyone looks the same, then all that they are doing is pitching us a Utopian world that clearly doesn’t mirror reality. We may not fit society’s ‘perfect mould’ but that shouldn’t be a reason for us to often be ignored and excluded from mainstream media.  

I really look forward to working more on this Disabled Representation Tips & Reviews series! There are a lot of cool disabled representations that I can’t wait to share with you guys. I’m curious to know: When was the last time that you saw a disabled character in a film or TV series? Did you think that it was a good representation?

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Image Citations: https://balamory.fandom.com/wiki/Penny_Pocket, https://www.anime-planet.com/characters/mimori-togo, https://nl.pinterest.com/pin/71283606579933983/, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/21/arts/television/review-speechless.html, https://www.elle.com.au/culture/isaac-sex-education-george-robinson-22908, https://www.hobbydb.com/marketplaces/hobbydb/subjects/toph-character, https://dc-and-marvel-megaverse.fandom.com/wiki/Oracle_(DC_Universe), https://www.amazon.com/Hello-Goodbye-Dog-Maria-Gianferrari/dp/1626721777/ref=as_li_ss_il?ie=UTF8&qid=1521682081&sr=8-1&keywords=hello+goodbye+dog&linkCode=li2&tag=booksforlittles-20&linkId=d4f8bd9c15983603de7af7d3e576bccb, https://www.usajacket.com/product/freddy-freeman-shazam-jacket/

Published by thewheelchairteen

I am a black, disabled teenager living in the Netherlands, book nerd and film fanatic. I love blogging about my own crazy life and expressing my opinions about the society around me :)

19 thoughts on “Introduction to: Disabled Representation Tips & Reviews

  1. This is a lovely article! I am watching Star Wars: Clone Wars TV series on Disney+ and recently watched Season 3 episode 2 which features a disabled clone called 99. I didn’t think it was good representation and felt he was just an accessory to the plot. I wish they had done more with his character, especially as the show is mainly aimed for children. Have you watched it? What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 Wow, this comment was a blast to the past! I used to occasionally watch Star Wars: the Clone Wars years ago when it originally aired. It was on Cartoon Network and sometimes came on after Ben 10. I had almost completely forgotten about it though. I didn’t know that it included any disabled representation! – I’ll have to add it to my list to watch in detail and talk about later. After seeing your comment, I did quickly pop over to the show and watch a little bit of the episode though. I agree – 99 didn’t really do much and it would be a real shame if his character didn’t return for later episodes. His character could be interesting if he was developed further or if his back disability was addressed. But because he doesn’t do much, he does come across as more of an accessory and extra. Thanks for sharing this with me – it was really interesting to see Cartoon Network try to be more inclusive.

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      1. I’m doing a massive Star Wars rewatch and decided to include the Clone Wars. It’s the first time I’ve watched it.
        Good luck with your writing!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it’s great you’re going to be looking more at the voices for different communities and I love how you’re inspiring other disabled people who might feel like they’re alone that they’re happy! I was watching ‘Wonder’ the other day and the story about Auggie’s condition just moved me😢 Honestly, I prefer the book though! You should totally review it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you – it is really important that the community doesn’t feel alone. When I was younger, all I wanted was to be able to point at the screen and say – ‘that character looks just like me!’ for once.
      Yes, I will definitely add that one to my review list – thank you for reminding me! I did both read Wonder and watch the film when I was younger but I think I might do both again to refresh my memory.

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    1. Interesting – I didn’t know that! It’s cool that includes representation since I know it’s such a popular show. It may be a little too grown up for me but I’ll still try and see if I’ll be able to watch it. If I can – I’ll definitely review it. Thanks for the reccomendation!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree, we need way more good disabled representation in media!! There is so little of it, and sometimes when it is in films or TV shows, the disabled character in the wheelchair turns out to be the villain who wants to be able to walk. That is damaging in my opinion (that’s why I typed ‘good representation’, representation without a harmful message). And for children especially it is important. I have read a couple of books with people in a wheelchair, my favourite one being Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, which Olivia recommended (and I think she said you liked it a lot as well?). Aside from that, I know I read a few short stories too in I think two different anthologies. But for films and TV shows.. I don’t think I have seen any with good representation and in which the character in the wheelchair was at least a significant character in the story (and not the villain thing I mentioned earlier, I have seen that several times). At least.. not that I recall (but then my memory isn’t how it used to be).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right about the disabled villain trope. It’s the same reason why we always see one-eyed villains, scarred villains and villains with breathing conditions like Darth Vader: because writers think that they need to show the villain’s painful past which makes them who they are on their bodies in a physical way. Which you like you said is a damaging stereotype and one I’m definitely going to talk more about in a later post. Out of My Mind is actually my favourite disabled representation in a book. I loved it as a child and it was reccomended to me by Olivia too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds good. I haven’t read any books with disabled characters, there definitely is low representation. The only TV personalities I can think of are Ade Adepitan, TV presenter and wheelchair basket ball player, andLiz Carr who plays a main character in Silent Witness, they are both great. Good luck with your novel planning. Julie 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for wishing me luck with my novel 🙂 Oh, I’ll have to check Silent Whitness out. I’ve never heard of it before. I have heard of Ade Adepitan though, I actually met him once at the Paralympics and took a picture with him. He seems like a really cool guy.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Your mention about “diversity scenery” hits so hard. People who try to argue that there is definitely equal representation for marginalized groups will take some a screenshot of a show/movie and circle some blurry background character who isn’t white/able-bodied and act like that’s fair and good rep. The audacity!

    Also agree so much about children’s books needing representation. Seeing yourself reflected in media from youth is so so crucial in developing strong self-esteem and sense of belonging!! And even knowing this we literally see talking animals represented more often in picture books than any marginalized group………..

    I’m excited to read your reviews for media with disability rep! I’m always looking for new recommendations. I think the last show I watched that I know for sure has prominent disability rep is Avatar: The Last Airbender and Toph (one of the main characters) is blind. It’s been a while since I watched it, so I can’t speak on if it’s good rep, but she is definitely a very important character and is vital to the series!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hadn’t even realised that point about the talking animals until you said it, but you’re so right – It’s crazy the kind of things that we prioritise. I love Avatar: The Last Airbender! Toph was one of my favourite characters, that’s why I included her on one of the petals of the disabled representation flower. The Last Airbender also had a character in a wheelchair in one of the episodes which I thought was cool.

      I thought that Toph was good representation: The sad part about most blind representation is that their disabilities are often erased. For instance, Daredevil (a famous blind superhero) uses enhanced senses to be able to see. His enhanced senses help him to ‘see’ the world a lot better than most able-bodied people can, and makes him a little unrelatable since he doesn’t face almost any of the normal issues being blind presents – This is what it means to erase a character’s disability. But Toph is slightly more realistic: she uses vibrations to see in the same way that I’ve seen a lot of blind people in real life do. She still can’t see in water or on a sandy terrain which makes sense. All of the good and bad things that come with her disability haven’t been erased for the convenience of the writer which I always admired about her.

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  6. Your writing gives plenty to think about. I’m almost finished writing the first draft of my first book, and have several others planned or started, ready to get stuck into when I’ve finished the first. They are mostly set in fantasy and sci-fi worlds. As such I had not thought specifically about disabled representation and how including and writing disabled characters will would make the story move believable, and potentially be more relatable and appeal to a wider audience.

    Thank you for opening my awareness wider, and getting me to think more deeply about the importance of how and what I write when creating worlds, and the characters that inhabit them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome! I highly reccomend that you read my post called: My 5 Tips to Authors Who Write Disabled Characters. I also address writing disabled characters in fantasy and sci-fi worlds and talk more in detail about why you should and how to incooperate disabled characters into fiction. I’m so happy to be reading your comment – It’s specifically people like you, who are currently writing, that lots of my posts are aimed towards.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for the recommendation. 🙂 Before I next sit down for a longer writing session, I will first read your post.

        Trying new things is scary sometimes, especially when it comes to things like writing disabled characters which deserves thought and is something at the moment I do not feel qualified (not quite the right word) to do.

        Thank you for your encouragement. 😁

        Liked by 1 person

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