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Disability Visibility on Screen

Real life heroes are seen more commonly today. This example from Netflix's 'Special' gives a new angle to the representation of disability on TV.

Ryan O'Connell, the show's lead character, is having trouble “coming out” as disabled with cerebral palsy in front of his new friends and peers; he tries to hide his condition from a best friend and skeptical supervisor when he starts a new job. Ryan presents his physical disorder as if it were the result of an auto accident and gains the understanding of all those around him - an understanding he's not sure he would obtain if they knew that he had a disability.

"People just assumed it was from my accident, so it was the perfect lie," O'Connell says. "It was definitely harder to come out about being disabled, because I had to sift through years of trauma from being closeted (about my disability) - and what that did to me psychologically."

We as a society find it easier to accept physical diversity if it is caused by something we are familiar with and can identify with, something we fear may happen to us.

People have trouble containing a more complex variety, O'Connell says, that strangers still ask him, 'What's wrong with you??' or 'Do you need to go to the hospital?' Those are the moments when I really dislike ... society and how we're treated."

Throughout the show, O'Connell's coping mechanism is shown to be his strong desire to integrate, be independent, and lead a full life in terms of work, social interaction, and romantic relationships. Kim, Ryan’s BFF, doesn't label him based on his disability. She helps strengthen feelings of self-worth and self-esteem in Ryan while embarking on an exciting, entertaining journey.


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