Why Representation of Children with Disabilities Matters

Andre Lucas, Co-Copy Editor

Recently, an image of a handicapped child, Oliver Garza-Pena, viewing in astonishment an advertisement that featured a kid who happened to be handicapped just like Garza went viral online, and it has since stimulated a conversation about inclusion of the physically disabled in advertisements. My take on this issue is simple: the representation of those who physically impaired matters in today’s society.


Although disabilities are more common in adults since children like Oliver only make up 0.8% of America’s disabled population while the elderly make up 49.8%, according to the Pew Research Center, representing them in the media is absolutely necessary, for this not only makes a childlike Oliver happy, but it also makes people like him feel as if they have a voice in the world and as if they matter.


Moreover, the Target advertisement that went viral is not the only example of how the media is promoting the representation of children with disabilities due to the fact that in 2017, the long-time running children’s TV show Sesame Street, introduced a new character named Julia who is autistic. This is a step in the right direction since the addition of Julia highlights the show’s goal in raising awareness of Autism in order to give the children who have the disorder a voice on TV.


Furthermore, I’m sure everyone has at least read or seen an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which features the hard-working Bob Cratchit’s son, Tiny Tim, who throughout the story suffers from an unspecified illness. Nonetheless, he plays a crucial role in the plot as well as in the choices protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge makes, which is a win for physically impaired adolescents, for someone like them is represented in a notable Christmas classic.


Additionally, a former comedy series on ABC, Speechless (2016-2019), also features a disabled child, JJ, who is one of the protagonist’s three children and has cerebral palsy, which has left him mute and confined to a wheelchair. This may not seem celebratory since the character has a serious illness, but it is, for it shows that ABC took a stand on this issue by having one of their shows include a character who is physically impaired, which is just another step in the right direction.


The list of disabled children being represented may seem like it can go on and on, but it can’t, for many people are probably unaware of the fact that representation of disabled kids is even an issue. Nevertheless, this subject shall remain relevant until there comes a time when films, TV shows, and advertisements, etc. include children who are disabled out of the kindness of their own hearts, not just to fulfill a diversity quota because no matter how a child looks, thinks, or acts, that child is still a human being. Therefore, they shall be perceived that way.