Study Says Disabled Actors Underrepresented

Actors with disabilities are underrepresented in movies and TV shows and are reluctant to ask producers for even minor accommodations, according to a study commissioned by the Screen Actors Guild (search).

While 20 percent of all Americans have a physical or mental disability, less than 2 percent of TV show characters display a disability and only one-half percent have speaking roles, according to an executive summary of a report released Tuesday.

The findings were announced by Robert David Hall (search), who lost both legs in a car accident in 1978 and who is a regular on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." (search)

"We have far to go to achieve true equality of opportunity," Hall said. "The images we see and the stories we tell say a lot about our society. We are part of the story."

The study showed that a majority of the accommodations sought by actors were fairly minor, including needing a sign language interpreter, the opportunity to sit down and proximity to a bathroom.

SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said Tuesday they will ask the Labor Department to expand a yearly casting data report to include disabilities. The report currently tallies opportunities in film and television by race, ethnicity, gender and age.

The study was compiled using focus groups and a survey mailed to 1,237 SAG members who have identified themselves as having a disability.