Acting the part: A thematic analysis of the experiences of actors with disabilities
Portrayals of disability in film and television are often unauthentic and stereotypical, influenced by perceptions of disability in society and the lack of disability representation in the industry. Actors with disabilities encounter unique barriers in the industry that limit their acting opportunities. The purpose of this study is to explore the experiences of actors with disabilities in the Canadian film and television industry. Nine actors with physical or sensory disabilities who had experience acting in the Canadian film and television industry were recruited through social media posts. Participants completed individual semi-structured interviews discussing how their disability has affected their work as an actor. Interviews were transcribed, then coded using a thematic approach. Six participants engaged in a focus group to discuss and expand on preliminary findings. Two main themes were identified: (1) the unique experiences of actors with disabilities working in the industry; and (2) the impact of industry professionals' perceptions of disability on the experiences of actors with disabilities. Many actors experience inadequate accommodations, inaccessible work sites, stigma, and being limited to disability specific roles. As a result, actors with disabilities have implemented strategies to improve their success when faced with social and physical barriers in the industry. Authentic representation was identified as the necessary strategy to overcome barriers and create more equitable experiences for actors with disabilities. A transformation of current perceptions of disability within film and television is necessary to achieve authentic representation and create a more accurate perception of disability in society.
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