Braille Monitor                                     January 2017

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Breaking the Ceiling for Blind Actors

by Gary Wunder

As you can tell from the table of contents, a number of articles in this issue deal with blind performers and how little visibility we have on television and in the movies. When blind people are featured, too often our characters do not represent life as we know it. Characters are obnoxious dolts who represent people most would rather avoid. When blind characters do appear, seldom if ever are they played by blind actors.

As with so many issues in our lives, those of us who are blind have to determine why we do not have the same opportunities as others. Generally we find that lack of opportunity springs from low expectations and significantly wrong perceptions on the part of the public and occasionally by the blind. Of course, sometimes obstacles we face are caused by the physical lack of sight and situations when there is no substitute for it. The glass ceiling faced by blind performers is but one example of how difficult it is to make this determination and how broadly to apply it. Should blind people be cast in roles in which the characters are blind? Should blind people appear on screen more than they do given the percentage of the population we represent? I suggest that the answer to both of these questions is yes. Can blind people act in roles in which the character has sight? This is a harder question and one that leads to so many others that it could certainly merit an article of its own.

It is our hope to run an article later this year which represents the views of the National Federation of the Blind Performing Arts Division on these and other issues. For now, here is what two mainstream magazines and a blind performer have to say about the issue of people with disabilities in movies and on television. After you have had time to think about the opinions expressed here, share how you feel with the readers of the Braille Monitor. Collectively let's figure out how to meet yet another challenge and the strategies we will use in doing it.

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