I recently wrote an open letter to Shortland Street suggesting that it's time they cast characters with disabilities as they frequently cast characters that are diverse in sexual orientation. I don't believe in mandatory diversity but the disability community should take steps to encourage diversity.
Firstly, Arts Access Aotearoa should consider what role it can play to get more diversity on screen. It could be encouraging people that have disabilities into theatre so that it opens the door to TV and films. This could possibly be done in partnership with theatre groups.
Secondly, disability-specific theatre groups may want to team up with agents to get their members external work when possible. Obviously, this applies to major cities mainly. Also if there are no theatre groups, why not start one?
Writers tend to write about what they know so encouraging more writers who have disabilities could be worthwhile. However, this is easier said than done as ensuring that screenwriting work gets made can be incredibly difficult. Supporting passionate people into crowdfunding could be the best idea.
Now to play devil's advocate: just because you're passionate about acting does not make you a suitable actor for high intense work. The right people need to be pushed. However, if some people are not suitable for the production environment, it doesn't mean they can't act on YouTube etc.
Of course, on the other side of the coin just because a producer calls you unsuitable doesn't mean they're correct. Gaining experience and credits will hopefully make producers more willing to work with you.
Of course, existing writers should be encouraged to write about people with disabilities in their shows. Some don't consider this. Some are afraid of getting things wrong. Disability organisations should work with writers to ease some of their fears.
I believe that in order to solve problems you have to approach things from many different sides. I would invite organisations, governments and individuals to push forward with some of the ideas in this blog post and together we can get more people with disabilities on screen.
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