“We recognize that disability is central to diversity, that the disability community comprises the largest minority in our nation, and that people with disabilities face seclusion from the entertainment industry,” the pledge reads. “We understand that increasing auditions, no matter the size of the role, is a critical step toward achieving inclusion in the industry.”
“The Ruderman Family Foundation commends CBS for its leadership in becoming the first major media company to pledge to audition actors with disabilities for roles in their productions,” said Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, which has been advocating for greater inclusion in the entertainment industry. “It is our hope that other major media companies will follow its lead and foster opportunities that will lead to more authentic representation of people with disabilities in popular entertainment.”
CBS’ NCIS: New Orleans was one of only four shows to receive the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation, a new designation recognizing shows with disabled cast members, for featuring Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, an actor with a spinal cord injury. Other shows honored include ABC’s recently-cancelled Speechless, featuring wheelchair user Micah Fowler and Netflix’s Special and The OA.
Netflix Features Young Wheelchair User in New Series
During the same week that CBS signed the Ruderman pledge, Netflix continued its trend of hiring actors with disabilities by ordering eight episodes of The Healing Powers of Dude, a young adult comedy about an 11 year old with social anxiety disorder named Noah who turns to a sarcastic emotional support dog named Dude to get through middle school. Noah is peer-mentored by a confident wheelchair-using friend played by Sophie Jaewon Kim. Kim uses a power wheelchair and answered an open call from Netflix for a young actress with a disability earlier this year.
Though disabled actors and characters are still underrepresented by huge margins, these moves by CBS and Netflix represent an emerging trend toward better disability inclusion. The Ruderman Foundation also acknowledges HBO, Hulu and Fox for efforts to audition and hire more disabled talent.