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Physically Challenged (Disabled)

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"Weird things happen to people who get hit by lightning. The blind can see. The deaf can hear. The dumb get smart again."
  -- Chett, Weird Science  

Over the years television has rarely gone out of its way (with exception of PBS) to feature the physically challenged actor or character.

Shown as single, lower class and often fair game for all sorts of abuses, the handicapped have been the fodder for scriptwriter's need to portray the dramatic, vulnerable side of the physically handicapped person's life rather than showing them as down to earth people with needs the same as the rest of us (for example, fathers, mothers, professionals, lovers, etc.).

Even as TV or movie extras, rarely have disabled actors been chosen for simple background scenes such as, spectators, shoppers etc. But recently TV programmers and sponsors have begun to include the physically challenged in their thousand of hours of programming.

From Larry Drake's sensitive portrayal of a mentally retarded office boy on the law drama L.A.LAW/NBC/1986-93; and the positive depiction of deaf actors fingering sign language on a MacDonald's Corporation TV commercial, the tide is slowly moving towards a more honest portrayal of the physically challenged in the media.

For ease of access to a particular handicapped or impairment, I have grouped each disability by categories:

  • Hearing Impaired (deafness)

  • Visually Impaired (Blind, near or far sightedness)
  • Speech Impaired (stuttering, mutes) 
  • Disease Impaired (diabetics, epileptics, birth defects, etc)
  •  Height Impaired (diminutive in stature, commonly
    called midgets, dwarfs or "Little People")
  • Mentally Impaired (mental retardation, autism, low IQs, stroke victims)
  • Physically Impaired (crippled, missing limbs)

I apologize in advance for any terms that may not be the "politically correct." 

Note:  Each actor/character is coded with an asterisk to describe their importance on the series

   ( * )   = The main or co-star character in the show 

  ( ** )   = A regular or occasional character in the show.

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