Are there enough professional disabled actors?

Actress Lisa Hammond in a wheelchairIn the UK those who want a career in acting are likely to attend drama school or another form of formal training. But many disabled people feel they can’t go down this route due to lack of access, or because of prejudice.

“If you weren’t disabled, we’d definitely let you in,” was one response that actor and director Simon Startin received from a drama school at the start of his career 20 years ago. “These were the good old days when they could be blatant about it,” he jokes. Another school told him they’d let him in if he “got cured”.

He told Ouch’s talk show that he did eventually go to drama school – impressively only 16 out of thousands of applicants were successful that year – but believes he got in because his disability is “visibly mild” and he did not require accessible adaptations, like ramps or lifts to be installed.

“I have a clenched body so I canĀ get away with being ‘odd’ in able-bodied parlance,” he says. “If you have more severe disabilities, then drama schools are in no way set up to cope with that.”

Louise Dyson runs Visable People, a casting agency for disabled actors. “I get hundreds of emails from disabled people all over the world each week who want acting work,” she says, but, though schools have been receptive to the idea of taking on disabled students, few on her books are drama school trained.

The numbers who have formal drama training haven’t increased since Dyson started the agency in 1994. “I’m really sad to say that, because I think that training is really important,” she says.

Read more at BBC News.

(Photo Credit: BBC)


Author: Kevin Mulligan

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