It is important for all of us to see ourselves represented in various media to identify with and share our stories with. However, gross injustice has been done to people with disabilities in this regard due to inaccurate, insensitive and culturally inappropriate representation.
Accurately depicting people with disabilities is the only way that we will see improvements to the treatment of people with disabilities. It's not enough that we look for representation only in stories. It's important that we imbibe those stories, and let people who live those stories talk about it. Having an able-bodied actor play a disabled character not only does injustice to the role, but also to the community.
We have curated a list of culturally sensitive and well-represented TV shows, movies, and short films. Use our recommendations next time you’re looking for something to watch.
Taare Zameen Par
When eight-year-old Ishan Awasthi is sent off to boarding school because of his stubbornness and lack of sincerity to study, various truths come into the clear. Despite his artistic caliber, when his academic life is in the forefront, all his efforts are discarded. What happens when the Awasthi family learns about their child's inability to learn as easily as they do? Is he really the one to blame? Does this mean he cannot excel in life? Watch the 2007 hit Taare Zameen Par to find out! Look inside what goes on in Ishan's mind and learn what and how's of Dyslexia.
What happens when Sam, a teenager on the autism spectrum, decides that he is ready to become independent? How does his family react to it? And mostly, how does he deal with the changes that follow? Watch Atypical to find out! Atypical is a warm, family-friendly drama that follows the Gardener family through their journey with autism. Dealing with the difficulties of the disability, it brilliantly explains how one can learn more about it.
The Theory of Everything
An awe-inspiring account of the legendary physicist Stephen Hawking, which is an adaptation of a novel written by his first wife, Jane. The film highlights the tribulations in Hawking's life caused by a fatal neurodegenerative disease (ALS) that results in the death of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. This gradually paralyzed him over decades. Watch The Theory of Everything to understand the journey towards the impossible.
Three of Us
Yogendra is forty years old and has cerebral palsy. He is cared for by his ageing parents. In their melancholic smiles and grief-stricken eyes, they seem to love and respect each other while being unable to accommodate their characters within the strictures of the ordinary world, outcasts and in their own way — visionaries.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
An emotionally bracing biopic of Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor of Elle, who suffers a stroke and is totally paralyzed with the exception of his left eye, from which he learns to communicate by blinking. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is one of the most visually original films and celebrates what is best in humanity in a powerful and moving way.
French films are either criticizing society with a wholesome ending that will make you cry or comedies based on stereotypes. Les Intouchables is a pleasant, comedic account of a quadriplegic and his caregiver while highlighting the healing power of camaraderie that will touch you in the most unimaginable and unforgettable ways.
Margarita with a Straw
A deeply moving coming-of-age story about a young woman with cerebral palsy who, against all odds goes to study abroad and falls in love with a blind woman there. During her journey she learns many lessons about loving herself. Bollywood finally stepped up its game.
A heart-warming story of a mother who wants her daughter with Down Syndrome to become independent and have a successful life ahead. Mahesh Limaye in his very first film, handles the subject quite masterfully and his work is accompanied by remarkable performances by Gauri Gadgil and Upendra Limaye.
A frightening psychological thriller about a man living with his wife and a daughter with hearing disability in a small town. Concerns arise when he starts having nightmares and visions about an impending apocalypse. With brilliantly hypnotic performances it is one of the most profound and unsettling depictions of a mental illness.
When Nicholas, a child with cerebral palsy, shifts into a new school, all he has for company is himself. Soon enough, curious Maria joins him and holds his hand, quite literally, on his journey to unravel this new world. Make sure to catch this short film to see what happens when we teach children to be just a tad bit kinder to each other.
A Quiet Place
A nerve-racking horror tale with the focus on a family's survival. The film literally contains about 25 lines of voice dialogue with an extensive use of sign language dialogue. This works perfectly well to serve the plot as well as for a deaf character who is actually portrayed by a child with hearing disability.
The Fundamentals of Caring
When Trevor, a teenager with physical disability, meets his newly-trained caregiver, Ben, a story is bound to follow. A fascinating journey helps them bond and explore various facets of what being human means. Solid performances and some genuinely sharp humor elevate the film from mere media to an excellent experience.
What's Eating Gilbert Grape
A coming-of-age drama about a young man living with his mother and his brother with autism, in a small Midwestern town who has to take on the role of reverse parenting since the passing of his father. It's a heart-warming tale of pain, acceptance and growth within the bonds of familial relationships.
The Peanut Butter Falcon
The film revolves around a young man who has Down syndrome, played by Zack Gottsagen. It's a wholesome, Mark Twain journey-esque tale of his adventure to chase his ambition of attending a wrestling school. Zack and Shia LaBeouf deliver terrific, emotionally persuasive performances that make it one of the sweetest films of the decade.
A nerve-racking thriller about a homeschooled teenager, Chloe, who begins to suspect that her mother is keeping a dark secret from her. Kiera Allen, the actress who plays Chloe, also uses a wheelchair in real life. This is the first time in 70 years that a thriller film has featured a character with disability (in a wheelchair) portrayed by an actor who is also a person with disability.
A heart-warming, inspiring story depicting the real-life odyssey of Robin and Diana Cavendish. The couple refused to give up in the face of adversities and led a passionate life together, raising their young son and devoting their lives to helping fellow polio patients and people with disabilities. The kind of film you actually clap during and also tear up over.
Auggie Pullman is not your generic ten-year-old. He knows more about space than there is to know, he is an excellent friend, and the kindest of people. Oh, did we mention he has slight facial differences too? Watch Wonder to find how a boy who isn't meant to fit in tries to gain acceptance and teaches about empathy in the most unexpected ways.
The Dimeos have had enough! No one, and that means absolutely no one can discriminate against their son JJ! He's just a normal teenager. So what if he has cerebral palsy? That doesn't make him too different now, does it? Watch Speechless to find out about what, why, and how cerebral palsy plays out among people and what you can do to understand it better. This heartwarming comedy takes viewers on a roller coaster of emotions while subtly instilling lessons about the importance of inclusion and kindness.