With the Paralympics fast approaching, Breaking Bad actor, disability campaigner and co-host of the games RJ Mitte is calling on broadcasters to increase the number of disabled people on our screens - currently it’s only 2.5%.
Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Wednesday 24 August RJ Mitte will be highlighting the positive impact of having more disabled people on TV and in the media.
This is backed up with new research by the disability charity Scope, which highlights more disabled people on TV would improve attitudes towards disability. It reveals three in five (61%) disabled people believe seeing more disabled people on TV increases awareness of disability among members of the public.
This includes disabled people appearing in TV dramas, documentaries and comedy shows like the Last Leg, which disabled people feel will help change perceptions of disability for the better.
The new figures also show:
- A staggering eight in ten (81%) disabled people do not feel they are well-represented on TV and in the media.
- The majority of respondents (77%) said that the coverage of the Paralympic Games had a positive impact on attitudes to disability over the past four years.
RJ Mitte will be in Rio to co-host the games alongside a team of presenters the majority (75%) of who are disabled. He hopes seeing more disabled people on TV will increase understanding of disability and make people more comfortable around disabled people.
The Breaking Bad actor and disability campaigner who has cerebral palsy, says:
"I wouldn’t be in the position I am in today without my disability. I utilised everything I know about living with Cerebral Palsy for my role in Breaking Bad.
It was my acting ability that landed me the role, although my disability helped get me the part of Walt Junior – like everyone else I went through a gruelling audition process.
I’m really looking forward to co presenting the Paralympics and I truly hope Rio 2016 will open up further opportunities for other disabled actors in TV. If we can make this happen, we will in turn help change attitudes towards disability across the world"
Scope also believes more still needs to be done in terms of writing, casting and programme making to address the lack of disabled talent onscreen and in the media.
Half of the British public don’t personally know anyone disabled and two-thirds of people admit to feeling awkward about disability. Seeing disabled characters and presenters on their favourite shows could really improve this.
Sophie Morgan, patron of the disability charity Scope and co-host of the Paralympics says:
"The representation of disability on TV is hugely important and the affect this has on improving attitudes towards disability should not be underestimated.
We know lots of progress is being made but the industry must do more to help disabled people work both in front of and behind the camera.
During the Paralympics there will be more disabled people than ever before on TV but this shouldn’t be something that just happens every 4 years.
I would love to switch on my TV and see a disabled person talking about something they are genuinely interested in or acting out a part that doesn’t just focus on their impairment"
For more information and interviews with RJ Mitte or Sophie Morgan please contact Anja Dembina in the Scope press office on 0207 619 7730 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors
Edinburgh TV Festival event
“London 2012 to Rio 2016: The Superhumans struggle for equality” hosted by Ade Adepitan, presenter and Paralympian, taking place on Wednesday 24th August 15.30 - 16.30 at The Moorfoot/Kilsyth Level 0.
Number of disabled people on screen - CRG/CDN Diversity monitoring: The Top TV programmes August 2014
Polling company Opinium carried out online interviews with 1,009 disabled UK adults aged 18+. The interviews took place between 5 – 11 August 2016.
Scope says this lack of understanding about disability is why people feel awkward around disabled people. Scope commissioned Opinium Research to carry out an online survey of 2,001 UK adults aged 18+ from 11 to 14 April 2014.