TV channels are publishing guidelines declaring the number of disabled characters they will put on screen, but are there enough disabled actors out there to play the parts?

By Emma Tracey for BBC Ouch!

In the UK those who want a career in acting are likely to attend drama school or another form of formal training. But many disabled people feel they can’t go down this route due to lack of access, or because of prejudice.

“If you weren’t disabled, we’d definitely let you in,” was one response that actor and director Simon Startin received from a drama school at the start of his career 20 years ago. “These were the good old days when they could be blatant about it,” he jokes. Another school told him they’d let him in if he “got cured”.

He told Ouch’s talk show that he did eventually go to drama school – impressively only 16 out of thousands of applicants were successful that year – but believes he got in because his disability is “visibly mild” and he did not require accessible adaptations, like ramps or lifts to be installed.

“I have a clenched body so I can get away with being ‘odd’ in able-bodied parlance,” he says. “If you have more severe disabilities, then drama schools are in no way set up to cope with that.”

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