Actors With Visible Disabilities “Essentially Excluded” From TV During 2021-22 Season, UCLA Diversity Report Says

Women and people of color made progress across television for the 2021-22 season, but people with disabilities are still severely underrepresented, according to UCLA’s latest annual TV diversity report.

This marks the first year that UCLA tracked the disability status of actors, after receiving criticism for not including an analysis on disability representation in previous reports. According to the findings, while people with disabilities make up 26% of the U.S. adult population, they comprise only 12.2% of broadcast scripted leads.

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That number shrinks to 9.9% for cable and just 5.6% for digital or streaming. Among those leads who did have disabilities, a majority reported either mental health, learning, or neurological disabilities. Only two actors had known physical or hearing disabilities while occupying a lead role on cable or digital. None were represented in broadcast.

When expanding beyond the lead roles, two actors on broadcast scripted series had a physical disability that was visible or a hearing disability, constituting just 0.3% of the shows in the study. In cable, that expanded to four actors. For digital or streaming, 11 actors had a visible or a hearing or visual impairment disability.

In fact, 67.3% of broadcast scripted shows did not include any actors with known disabilities in their main casts. Only 4% had a cast with a share of actors with disabilities approached or exceeded the adult population share.

For digital series, this percentage went up to 77%. However, a larger percentage (7.2%) of digital scripted shows had casts that approached or exceeded the population share of adults with disabilities. On cable, just 4.5% of shows had a cast that approached or exceeded the population share of adults with disabilities.

When factoring in only the main cast for each series studied, those shares drop dramatically.

The UCLA diversity report also examined representation for women and people of color across television in the 2021-22 season. According to the analysis, people of color remained underrepresented in every industry employment front, except for cable scripted leads and credited cable writers, where they reached proportionate representation.

Relative to their male counterparts, women saw gains in seven out of 12 measured Hollywood employment areas — broadcast scripted leads; broadcast and cable show creators; broadcast and digital episodes directed; and credited cable and digital writers.

Women remain underrepresented in many areas. They have achieved equity in broadcast scripted leads (52.6%), cable scripted leads (48.7%), digital scripted leads (52.6%), and credited cable writers (48.5%).

The UCLA TV diversity report examines 521 live-action, scripted television shows across broadcast, cable, and digital platforms from the 2021-22 season to document the degree to which people from underrepresented groups are present in front of and behind the camera.

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