Teresa Garratty: Why deaf and disabled actors deserve more award recognition

Posted on January 29, 2016

There’s been quite a bit of controversy recently involving this years Oscar Awards. A lot of people are calling for more representation of minorities among the nominees and that includes the celebrities themselves. Will and Jada Smith are said to be boycotting the awards due to the lack of diversity, among many others.

Sir Ian McKellen (you know stuff gets real when Gandalf has to weigh in) has also entered the debate, questioning as to why an openly gay man has yet to win an award? He wonders if that’s due to prejudice or chance..?


Amongst all the controversy of race, gender, sexuality, I also happened to spy an article that highlighted a topic that I have VERY strong feelings about.


The article asks “Where are the disabled actors?” and it’s a very good question. You’d probably have about as much luck spotting a disabled person at the Oscars, as I did spotting red squirrels on Brownsea Island (for the record, I saw ZERO red squirrels…not a damn one).

They should be there, but for whatever reason…..they just aren’t.


But it’s not just the Oscars that Deaf and disabled actors are left out of. They also get overlooked in the diversity debate altogether. For instance, where was the uproar and where were the celebrity boycotters when Eddie Redmayne (an able bodied actor) collected his award for playing a disabled character in The Theory of Everything?

I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve the Oscar and I’m sure as hell not entering that messy debate of “should able bodied actors play disabled roles?” but the point is, that debate exists. It’s a question that’s been battled out by many for a very long time, yet it somehow flew right under the radar.


But who cares, right? I mean, what’s so important about having Deaf and disabled actors on the big screen, if the able bodied actors can do a fine job of it anyway?

Well let me redirect you back to that first article and more importantly, the readers comments.

WARNING: Most of them rank about a 10 on the moron scale.


This is why Deaf and disabled actors need that recognition.

So they’re no longer compared to fictional species like “Ewoks” and “Wookies” (yes that was one of the comments) and no longer included for the sake of ticking a box (another one of the comments) but actually respected, on an equal level, for their contributions to the industry.

Hopefully then we can take this notion that jokes about a paraplegic James Bond are OK (yep, another one of the comments) and leave them in the dark ages, where they belong.


Lets hope the future holds more sightings of Deaf and disabled actors…..and maybe even a Red Squirrel…


Teresa is a freelance film maker, photographer and full time cynic. At school, she was voted “Most likely to end up in a lunatic asylum”, a fate which has thus far been avoided. Her pet hates are telephones, intercoms and all living things.

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