In 2018 there still seems to be a lack of
physically- and mentally- disabled characters in
soaps. You could argue that when people that have
mental illness are included in soaps, it is usually
in a negative light, such as having psychopaths as
characters. I believe that soaps could do better.
Soaps need to do better in representing people
that have different needs because I think exposure
is important, to show the public that we are just
like everybody else. There is no better way to do
this than to appear in people's living rooms daily.
Also, some older people could benefit from exposure
to people with disabilities as they grew up when
mainstreaming children was not common, so have not
encountered as many in their lives.
true that soaps have had characters with
disabilities such as "Patch" from "Days Of Our Lives
with one working eye, but before he was fully blind
in the last year, this affected him very little.
Also, the same character is an example of the
typical miracle cure as he's getting a bionic eye
that will cure his blindness if the operation is
successful. Maggie was also in a wheelchair for a
few weeks, then was suddenly cured, and you could
argue that Will's temporary amnesia is a mental
health condition. The character of Theo also had
Autism, but it only came up when it was convenient
to the plot in recent years. Decades ago, Stefano
had a son, Benji, who was deaf, but he was more of a
plot device than a real character.
that the one advantage of having temporarily
differently-abled characters is that viewers get a
glimpse of what it is like to be in their
situation. Disabilities come in many forms, so it
would be impossible to cover all disabilities
I frequently view soaps from
US, UK Australia and New Zealand, and it is my
belief that only the United Kingdom has good
disability representation. The others have few
characters with different needs.
"Hollyoaks" has a character in a wheelchair.
"Coronation Street" also has one in a wheelchair,
that had a baby with another character.
Additionally, "Coronation Street" has a character
with Down's Syndrome who is fairly young.
Australian soap "Neighbours" has a character with
MS, and a person that couldn't hear for a while,
until she was miraculously cured. Neighbours also
had a character that was in a wheelchair recently,
but he was faking it.
"The Young & The
" also has Nikki, a character with MS, and
they also had a deaf character, Devon (but he was
cured with a cochlear implant, and it's rarely
mentioned any more). Years ago, they also had an
actress/character who walked with a brace and cane,
Carol, Paul's secretary (Christopher Templeton).
Sharon's mother, Doris (Karen Hensel) was in a
wheelchair after an accident (she hasn't been seen
" had an authentic
character, Mitch (Matt Harmon), who was
differently-abled, as was Carol mentioned above on
Y&R. This basically means that the actor had a
disability. This is generally preferred by
disability advocates, and I wish that they could
have continued with this throughout the years on the
It would be good to include people
with disabilities consistently in a program.
Authentic actors would be preferred; however, there
may be cases where no differently-abled actors are
available. There are people in the disability
community that regard a person playing a person that
is differently-abled similar to black face, but this
might not be a helpful opinion. Shows should at
least try to get authentic actors; I view inclusion
as the top priority.
I think that a good
model would be to have one differently-abled
character on each show that's authentic, and if the
producers feel the need to make others
differently-abled on a temporary basis, then they
should have the freedom to do so. This would give
excellent visibility to people that have
disabilities and would provide some with jobs.
"Shortland Street", a soap in New Zealand, rotates
different types of LGBTQ characters around; you could
do the same with characters differently-abled.
Producers may be afraid that they would get
things wrong in their portrayals of the disabled,
but this shouldn't stop them. When Will was killed
on "Days Of Our Lives," some fans claimed that it
was anti-gay, but many called that position
ridiculous. People are going to complain,
regardless, and I think that the lack of inclusion
is a much bigger problem. You cannot adapt, and try
to get stories right for people with unique
abilities, if you don't include them to begin with.
It's time for people with disabilities to be
included in soaps.