30 11 2007

Cultural icons of note with disability are Franklin Delano Roosevelt, thirty-second President of the United States, Stephen Hawking, Ph.D., theoretical physicist, and actor Michael J. Fox. Disability diagnosis for each of these men occurred in adulthood. Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the age of 39 received a diagnosis of (polio) poliomyelitis. A 2003 study determined his condition was more likely Guillain-Barré syndrome. In the age of radio and less public scrutiny, Roosevelt was able to establish the appearance of able-bodied upright walking behavior through the use of iron braces and a cane. Without this deception of the American populace in an unenlightened era of frequent disability discrimination, he was an unelectable candidate for the Presidency of the United States.

Stephen Hawking went on to intellectual greatness in the fields of theoretical cosmology and quantum gravity after his diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known in the United States as Lou Gehrig’s disease. His disability has progressed over the years into a state of almost total paralysis.

Actor Michael J. Fox of the Back to the Future trilogy (1985-1990) and television comedy Family Ties (1982-1989) developed Parkinson’s disease in 1991. He disclosed the diagnosis of the movement disorder Parkinson‘s in 1998. Michael J. Fox retired from acting as his symptoms worsened in the year 2000.

Legalized Discrimination in Hollywood

Pam Vetter

November 29, 2007


“Actor Danny Murphy wants to change the world so performers with disabilities are counted and recognized.”

“The entertainment industry will not include performers with disabilities in the Casting Data Report. People with disabilities make up 20 percent of the population, we are the largest minority that crosses every ethnic group, yet we are not counted,” Murphy explained.”

“It speaks volumes when the media and entertainment industry don’t see disability as diversity.”

“One of the studios has no disability access whatsoever and they don’t expect it or plan for it to be accessible.”

“There have only been two times in history where a lead role in a [Hollywood] film went to a performer with a disability. One was Harold Russell, a double amputee who lost both hands [during WWII]. He won two Oscars for his performance in ‘The Best Years of Our Lives,’ in 1946. One Oscar was won for Best Supporting Actor and the second Oscar was won for being an inspiration to all returning veterans. The other was Marlee Matlin, who won an Oscar as Best Actress in a Leading Role for ‘Children of a Lesser God.’”




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