Disability on television

Thomas Banks
Summary 
It is rare to see people with a disability on Australian television. DiVine headed to last week's Logie Awards to investigate. We asked people from the television industry what they thought about disability on television. Many people said there needs to be more people with a disability on our screens. Some said that it needs to start with the writers. Producers also need to start hiring actors with a disability.
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Thomas Banks on 10/05/2011
An illustration of an old fashioned television with the word TV on the middle of the screen
TV

We can all have a role in getting people with a disability onto television screens

South Australian winemaker John Hughes won the admiration of a nation on Masterchef last week. John lives with cerebral palsy. He has been admired for his courage and his cooking. But it is disappointingly rare to see people with a disability like John on our small screens.

People with a disability are simply not often represented on Australian television. So DiVine took to the red carpet of the 2011 TV Week Logie Awards last week to try to find out why.

All walks of life

I think it's really important to have people with a disability on television, says Kristie Phelan, creative director at Nickelodeon. We need to reflect all people from all walks of life on Australian television.

Geoff Morrell is about to star in the new mini-series Cloudstreet on Channel 9. Morrell joked that if people with disabilities were on Australian television, they would put him out of a job. But then he became serious and agreed there was a need. It's an industry that should reflect a wide range of diversity.

More accepted

Former Australian Idol host James Mathison also called for change. Hopefully with your work and the work of others, there would be more awareness of people with disabilities on television and it would be more accepted, Mathison says.

Mathison says the growing popularity of watching video content online might help bring about change. That's the beauty of the internet. We don't have to go through the gatekeepers to watch a range of content.

Better stories

Many people DiVine spoke to at the Logies suggested better representation of people with a disability would start with better stories.

It starts with the producers and the writers, says Packed to the Rafters actor Hugh Sheridan. You need to be able to get the writers to write the scenes for people with disabilities to act. And you need to try and convince the producers to hire them. It's always a hard challenge. But we are getting there slowly.

We can all have a role in getting people with a disability onto television screens. We can demand television producers feature more diverse characters and casts. And we can also create stories which truly reflect the lives of people with a disability. Let's make it happen!

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