Film and disability don't have to be mutually exclusive, but you wouldn’t know it from what Hollywood has to show you. While exploring gender, sexuality, race, and gender identity in film school, I felt compelled to look into how disability factored into film as well. That’s when I first decided to explore the complex issues surrounding both portrayals of disability in film and lack of representation for people with disabilities working in the film industry.
It led to a lively weekly Twitter conversation called #FilmDis, asking participants to discuss proposed topics such as whether nondisabled people should be given the opportunity to play characters with disabilities, which films or television shows get disability portrayals right, and how to work with allies in the film industry to encourage better casting of actors with disabilities.
As the lone student with a physical disability in my BFA program, I experienced resistance from my peers at every step of the way. Since we were constantly competing for spots, I was seen as the “weak link” and no one would work with me on any of my film projects. I realized early on that I was pretty much on my own. If I wanted to make it in film, I would have to find my own crew and show my professors I was just as capable. I decided to take an independent study on disability and film, to better understand the issues plaguing my community.