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Representation in Entertainment


People with disabilities are rarely visible in media – as actors, writers, producers, journalists – and representations of disability often perpetuate harmful stereotypes. The act of storytelling needs to center the perspectives and experiences of persons with disabilities.

This theme was explored at the UCLA Disability as Spectacle Conference in 2017, with panels and presentations from people throughout the entertainment industry. There was a common recognition that this is a pressing agenda for UCLA, given our proximity to Hollywood as a hub of artistic energy and entertainment.

Recent courses and programs reflect a growing interest among UCLA faculty and students in disability representation and visibility, using media and storytelling as tools for social change.

Two ASL interpreters signing for the keynote address of DJ Kurs, Artistic Director for Deaf West Theatre. Photo credit: Stanley Wu
A drawing of a coronavirus molecule with the text Pandemic Politics overlaid on top. Additional text reads - Insights from disability justice and human rights movements.

The UCLA Disability Studies Minor partnered with the Universal Human Rights Initiative and Repair to launch the educational, social media campaign #PandemicPolitics. Read the full story here.

Sparking conversation through film

Disability Studies has collaborated with student and community organizations to host screenings and discussions around recent documentary films.
Read the full story here.

 UCLA Newsroom: Diversity takes a step back in theatrical films - but strides forward in streaming


We seek to expand our work in this area and to develop a lab that uses multiple forms of storytelling to shift the conversation around disability in media and entertainment. Connect with us to share your ideas for collaboration!

Still from the film Peanut Butter Falcon of stars Zack Gottsagen, an actor who has Down's syndrome, and Shia LaBeouf. They are standing in the ocean, ankle-deep, facing each other, and laughing.
Scene from film Tocando La Luz, a couple walks up a set of stairs, their arms intertwined. Each of them holds a white cane.
Photo of the six actors in Deaf West's production of Spring Awakening. The actors are all signing using ASL. One actor holds a guitar. Another actor is using a wheelchair.