Robert David Hall image via Featureflash /

Enabling the disabled

by Becky Curran

Did you know that the population of disabled Americans is reaching 25% with returning war veterans? Unfortunately, the entertainment industry hasn’t quite caught up with these figures. Less than one percent, which is six characters, of network regulars are disabled. Only one has an actual disability. That’s Robert David Hall who plays the role as head county coroner Dr. Albert Robbins M.D. on the CBS television show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” Most people don’t even know that he has a disability. In 1978, an 18-wheeler smashed into Robert David Hall’s car and ignited its gas tank. More than 65 percent of his body was burned, and he spent several months in a burn unit. Both of his legs were amputated; however, he now walks comfortably on two prosthetic limbs. This story makes him unique and contributes to the amazing person that he is today.

There’s an untapped market of actors and actresses with disabilities that have the talent and are eager to work. However, Peter Farrelly and Vince Gilligan are two great creators who have caught on.  Peter Farrelly’s interest in the topic of disability began during his youth on an afternoon he spent swimming with his best friend, Danny Murphy, who took a dive that the too-shallow water couldn’t accommodate. That one moment resulted in Danny’s using a wheelchair due to an injury to his spinal cord. It was at Danny’s urging that Peter started thinking of ways to represent this whole group of people in a light that’s more realistic and more human than we’re accustomed to seeing on-screen.

Vince Gilligan, the creator of AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” was very close to an actor in college with much more advanced cerebral palsy, who eventually died, but was so inspirational to him; he wanted to add that element into the show. This show has allowed disabled actor R.J. Mitte to discover himself not only as an actor but also as an activist for the rights of people with disabilities in the entertainment industry.

The entertainment industry has the opportunity to reach audiences around the world. The goal is for more people to engage disability in their projects. It’s understandable if someone doesn’t want to focus on the disability, but they should find a way to integrate in order for there to be a more accurate portrayal of America. The entertainment industry has the opportunity to reach audiences around the world. If nearly 25% of the population is disabled, then every person in this country has some type of relationship to disability. Everyone who works in the entertainment industry should take the opportunity to share their stories somehow with those around them. This will hopefully lead to more stories on screens. Each person’s story is what makes him or her unique. If we were all the same, life would be boring.

Becky Curran

About Becky Curran

Becky Curran was born a little person in Boston, Massachusetts. Most recently, she worked in television casting at CBS Television Studios, after spending 5 years working at Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles, CA. As a motivational speaker and blogger, she's on a mission to find a way to change the way little people and all people with disabilities are perceived in the media, which ultimately influences the opinions of society as a whole. You can check out her website at, her blog at and follow her on Twitter @beckymotivates.

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