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People With Disabilities on TV and In Movies

Did you ever think about how people with disabilities are portrayed on television or in the movies? Scroll down to read more about images of people with disabilities in the media.

Documentaries

Blindsight
A group of Tibetan teenagers with visual impairments scale a treacherous mountain, led by the only blind man ever to scale Mt. Everest.

Unlikely Travelers
Six individuals with intellectual disabilities go on an adventure of a lifetime to Egypt! Their two-week trip is about chasing dreams, exploring the unknown, and changes lives.

Praying with Lior
This documentary follows a young boy with Down Syndrome and his family as he approaches Bar Mitzvah. Considered alternately a "spiritual genius" and a burden, Lior inspires his community with fervent devotion and compels them to reevaluate what they consider a "disability."


Television Shows

Mikey Ramon, Carlos' brother on The Magic School Bus, has paraplegia. He's a real computer whiz, and helps the class with mechanical problems during their adventures on the school bus.

Geordi La Forge, head engineer of the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation, has a visual impairment. Since the show takes place 300 years in the future, Geordi can see using a special VISOR (Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement). In later movies, he even gets artificial eye implants. (Did you know? The actor who plays Geordi is the host of Reading Rainbow!)

Tom Bowman, one of the main characters in The Secret Life of an American Teenager, has Down Syndrome. He's very good at understanding people and often helps his sister Grace with her complicated love life.

In ER, the main character Dr. Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes) walks with a cane. In addition to being an excellent ER doctor, she also served as temporary ER Chief of Staff. In another show about doctors, House, the main character uses a cane because he refuses to let his leg be amputated.


Movies

The Aviator (PG-13)
Leonardo DiCaprio depicts legendary movie director, aviator, and millionaire Howard Hughs in this epic biopic. Hughs suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, but that doesn't stop him from pursuing his dream of building the biggest airplane in history.

Seabiscuit (PG-13)
Seabiscuit is a wild horse who can only be tamed by an equally wild rider. Red (Toby Maguire, from Spiderman) is a jockey who is blind in one eye, but turns out to be the perfect person to bring out Seabiscuit's potential. Together they make horse-racing history!

I Am Sam (PG-13)
Sean Penn plays Sam Dawson, a man with mental retardation. Sam has a daughter, Lucy Diamond, played by 7-year old Dakota Fanning. Sam is raising Lucy on his own when the child welfare board takes Lucy away from him. A hot shot lawyer, Rita Harrison (Michelle Pfeiffer) helps Sam and his friends prove that he deserves to get his daughter back.

A Beautiful Mind (PG-13)
John Nash (Russel Crowe) is a brilliant mathemetician whose career is threatened by schizophrenia. With the help of his wife (Jennifer Connelly) he overcomes his illness and the inadequate medical practices of the mid-20th century to win the Nobel prize.

At First Sight (PG-13)
Loosely based on a true story, Val Kilmer plays Virgil Adamson, a man blind since the age of three. At the urging of his girlfriend (Mira Sorvino), he undergoes an operation that restores his sight, but struggles with his new life.

As Good As It Gets (PG-13)
Jack Nicholson stars as Melvin Udall, an author who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. He is rude to everyone, including his favorite waitress, Carol (Helen Hunt). After helping Carol's severely asthmatic son, Melvin seeks help to try and become someone Carol could love.

The Horse Whisperer (PG-13)
Grace loses part of her leg after a horrible accident that also severely injures her horse and kills her best friend. Grace's mother takes her and her horse to Montana to "horse whisperer" (Robert Reford) to see if he can calm the now savage horse and help Grace overcome her trauma.

Simon Birch (PG)
Simon, an 11-year-old dwarf, is sure he is destined to be a hero. He sets out to find his destiny while helping his best friend Joe find his real father. This film is loosely based on John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany.

Mr. Holland's Opus (PG)
Mr. Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) dreams of becoming a composer, but is forced to become a high school music teacher when he can't support his family. A major sub-plot of this movie is Holland's difficult relationship with his son, Cole, who is deaf.

Forrest Gump (PG-13)
Tom Hanks plays Forrest, a boy with physical and mental disabilities who manages to participate in many of the most important events in history during the 1960's and 1970's.

The Secret Garden (G)
A young girl who has lost her parents goes to live with her uncle at a neglected Victorian house and finds a 'hidden' garden with the help of a raven. In the house she meets her cousin Colin, who has a physical disability. The two of them and the housemaid's brother make the locked-up garden their secret playground. (From the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett.)

What's Eating Gilbert Grape (PG-13)
Johnny Depp plays Gilbert Grape, a young man who works in a small town grocery store. He also takes care of both his obese mother and younger brother Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who has learning difficulties. When Becky (Juliette Lewis) comes to town, Gilbert falls in love but has trouble finding the time for a life of his own.