Here you will find a list of 6 TV shows that have been noted for their inclusion of disabled characters. In no particular order, the following list discusses the importance of including disabled actors in the writing room and the positivity of showing how capable disabled people can be in fantastical, magical, and completely ordinary scenarios. Hopefully you will find something new to watch!
Sex Education is a coming-of-age drama comedy based in the UK. It follows Otis, the son of a sex therapist, who (with his friend Maeve) sets up a sex therapy clinic in his school in an effort to improve his popularity. The series follows a range of characters at Moordale Secondary School as they come to terms with growing up, relationships, and their sexualities. Initially released in 2019, the show will have four series overall. It is highly popular and praised for its handling of sexual intimacy, disability representation and inclusivity. Sex Education is rated 18.
George Robinson plays Isaac, a wheelchair user, in Sex Education. Isaac is witty and self-confident, and developed into a much loved staple character. Eventually, Isaac engages in a romantic relationship with another character. Instead of shying away from showing disabled characters as capable of intimacy, the writers consulted with Robinson to create a realistic and touching scene for him. As the writers always consulted Robinson, Isaac feels fleshed out and whole instead of a shallow stereotype.
Sex Education was praised for the realism of Isaac’s character. He is never used as inspiration porn, nor is he infantilised. Alternatively, they show how disabled people are vibrant individuals in their own right who are intimate with their loved ones. By not stereotyping Isaac, his plot flows naturally and the audience feel deeply connected to his life. The audience attribute this to the thorough research and inclusion of Robinson in the creative process.
Where to watch: Netflix
Abbott Elementary is an American mockumentary sitcom. Set in the fictional Willard R Abbott Elementary School, the show follows the dedicated teaching staff who are trying to cope in their greatly underfunded school. The characters are unfalteringly optimistic and determined to help their students in any way they can. Abbott Elementary is lauded for its comedic style whilst highlighting series issues. Similarly, with an incredibly diverse cast and touching storylines, it has quickly become a fan favourite. Abbott Elementary has won several awards and has two series so far. The show is rated TV-PG.
Series 2 of Abbott Elementary opened with a plot centred in the issue of accessibility. Without giving too much away, teachers were fighting to make their learning spaces accessible and encourage others to do the same. With a character who uses a wheelchair and a new student who communicated using ASL (American Sign Language), the second series emphasised the necessity of making schools accessible for all students. Through centralising disabled characters, Abbott Elementary was continuing its themes of inclusion and diversity present in the first series. They addressed the difficulty of getting funding to accommodate students and emphasised how accessibility should not be something someone has to ask for, it should be there always.
Additionally, Gregory – a first grade teacher – is autistically coded. Whilst not confirmed by the creators, many of Gregory’s behaviours suggest this. He is blunt in the face of social injustice, thoroughly plans his lessons and dislikes certain foods textures. However, none of these traits are presented negatively. They are seamless parts of his character and personality.
Therefore, it is clear to see why so many fans praise Abbott Elementary for their effortless inclusion of disabled characters. From character traits to tackling larger social issues, the show has taken disability representation in its stride in their creation of a realistic and heart warming American elementary school.
Where to watch: Disney+
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a 2018 American animated television series. It is a reboot of the 1985 film She-Ra: Princess of Power. The show follows Adora and Catra, orphans raised as soldiers in the army of the evil ruler Hordak. After uncovering a magical sword that transformed Adora into the legendarily powerful She-Ra, she joins the Rebellion and founds the Princess Alliance. She-Ra is acclaimed for its diverse characters. Furthermore, the show frequently address LGBT+ identities and relationships. It is popular with adults and children alike. The show is rated PG, it has 5 series.
She-Ra is popular for effortlessly including disabled characters in their roster. The most prominent is Entrapa. Eventually confirmed as autistic by the creators, Entrapa has many autistic character traits. Significantly, Entrapa is not a stereotype. She’s very emotive and as a woman (and considered POC by many viewers) she was a change from the stereotypical white male autistic character. She-Ra has some other visible disability representation. However, Entrapa was the most successfully received. Occasionally, the writers would fall into savant or villainous stereotypes for their disabled characters but many disabled fans do not consider this too much of a detraction. Entrapa remained a fan favourite throughout the show and beyond.
Where to watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime
Hawkeye is a miniseries within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It follows hero archer, Hawkeye (Clint Barton) as he is forced to confront his dark past as Ronin. He and eager archer-in-training Kate Bishop must fight underground mob rings and solve the mystery of an impending threat and get home in time for Christmas. A major theme of Hawkeye follows Clint coming to terms with his hearing loss. The hero’s down-to-earth and family driven personality entices viewers. Hawkeye is ideal for Marvel movie fans who have let the TV shows pass by them. Similarly, it is praised for its portrayal of deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Hawkeye is rated 12.
While Hawkeye fulfils its role as a run of the mill superhero tv show, it also introduces long over due disability representation into the MCU. Clint Barton has been sporadically deaf or hard of hearing in comics since the 1980s. Naturally, when you are a superhero who causes explosions, eventually you end up with hearing damage. The series opens with Clint removing his hearing aids to avoid listening to an atrocious Broadway musical. Its a strong opening and the prominence of Clint’s disability remains throughout the show. From asking Kate Bishop to interpret, to learning to lip-read, Hawkeye follows Clint as he battles hearing fatigue whilst battling a criminal empire. Hawkeye successfully gives a glimpse into the life of someone who is hard of hearing.
Furthermore, the crime boss Echo is also deaf. She has a interpreter and encourages Clint to embrace his hearing loss – although the way she does it is a little violent. Additionally, there is a scene where you follow her perspective of lip-reading. The subtitles match what she sees and the audience figure out what is being said alongside her. Furthermore, Echo is an amputee. However, once again this does not detract from her abilities. Echo is also Native American. This allows the show to touch on the intersectional stigma Echo would have faced as a child.
Also, there was of hard of hearing people in the writing process. Clint’s actor, Jeremy Renner is hard of hearing himself. Also, Echo’s actress (Alaqua Cox) was consulted to keep Echo as realistic as possible. Although, some elements are exaggerated. For example Clint’s oversized hearing aids, this does not harm the show overall. Would it have been nice to see this disability representation much earlier? Yes, but it is a well-achieved and welcome inclusion.
Where to watch: Disney+
Based on a novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Good Omens follows the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley as they attempt to prevent the end of the world after becoming used to life on earth. The series accompanies the duo as they attempt to find the Antichrist and trick heaven and hell into believing they never lost him in the first place. A light-hearted and comedic TV series, it is very popular for it’s unique depiction of biblical characters and the end times. Equally, fans praise Good Omens for its presentation of LGBT+ characters whose identities seamlessly blend into the plot. A second series was released that covers the unpublished sequel. Good Omens is rated 12.
Series one of Good Omens opened strongly with a powerful inclusive message. Series two has continued this through introducing several disabled characters into the mix. Most prominent is the archangel Saraquel. Played by actress, comedian and disability rights activist Liz Carr. Carr has Arthrogryposis (AMC) and uses a wheelchair. Saraquel’s disability does not prevent her from fulfilling her role as an archangel and one scene on earth shows her casually magically creating a ramp when Aziraphale’s shop fails to accommodate her. This disability representation elevates Good Omens’ inclusive reputation and the inaccessibility of earth vs heaven was a good nod to the many problems still in society.
Through her and a few other background disabled angels, Good Omens conveys the healthy message that disabilities are not flaws. Interestingly, the show implies that it is human society that has failed to accommodate people. This is emphasised through how heaven is fully accessible. Overall, for a show that is lauded for its LGBT+ inclusion, it is great to see the writers venturing into new areas of inclusion as the show continues.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
Countryfile is a British weekly news magazine TV programme that has been broadcast since 1988. With a range of hosts, they explore agricultural and rural issues in the country. As well as this they highlight environmental problems and encourage their viewers to engage with their local areas and protect the environment. Highly informative, they also shine a light on local organisations that help their communities and coax their audience to engage with these people and ideas. The show is a staple in British households and is popular with rural and urban families alike.
Countryfile often presents the everyday life of disabled people in rural communities and highlight the efforts of disabled organisations including disabled people in outdoor spaces. Their format allows viewers to learn about organisations and individuals they would never encounter otherwise. Similarly, Countryfile’s segments are able to visit a large variety of organisations throughout the year and emphasise the importance of their work on communities across the UK. Furthermore, as part of a BBC initiative since 2020, Countryfile has increased their number of disabled hosts. Therefore, while many episodes do not feature disability organisations, the hosts still positively represent the disabled community to their audience. Countryfile is significant due to their large audience and easy reach into British homes. Therefore, disabled representation reaches millions of people and reinforces the importance of including disabled people in prominent roles in media.
Where to watch: BBC iPlayer, BBC One
Hopefully you will have something new to watch! Or maybe you are looking at a show in a new light. Are there any shows with good disability representation that you would recommend?
If you would like to read more on autistic representation in media, we have an excellent article that you can read here.