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The Academy Awards is Ramping Up the Disability Representation

This Sunday, March 27, is the 94th Academy Awards and, for the first time ever, a deaf man is one of the Oscar nominees.

Troy Kotsur has been nominated as an actor in a supporting role for his part in the movie “CODA,” which has also been nominated for best picture. CODA stands for “child of deaf adults.” The movie tells the story of a seventeen-year-old who loves to sing but is the only hearing member in her family.

The Oscars has been receiving flack for years about its lack of diversity (remember #OscarsSoWhite?), and although it still has a long way to go when it comes to representation, there has been a clear and conscious effort the past few years to make the awards more inclusive.

The 93rd Academy Awards was a huge year for the disability community. The movie “Sound of Metal” and the documentary “Crip Camp” were both nominated for the 2021 Oscars. Disabled actors Kiera Allen and Robert Tarango also were on the list of people who were in the spotlight at last year’s Academy Awards. And even Disney’s Pixar joined in with its short film “Loop,” which features an autistic non-speaking character.

The lastand onlytime a deaf person won an Academy Award was when Marlee Matlin (who also appeared in "CODA") won for best actress for “Children of a Lesser God.” But before then, and since then, disability representation has been severely lacking. Plus, when disability has been represented in movies in the past, the leading roles have often been played by nondisabled actors (like Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man”).

The past two years have shown us that there are so many possibilities when it comes to authentically representing disability in the media. One can only hope that more opportunities will arise for disabled stories, disabled storytellers, and disabled actors as we strive to create a more inclusive world that properly represents the diversity of our society.


Check out our list of movies and TV shows with disabled characters on Instagram by clicking here!


Kayla Kingston is the Communications Specialist for MCIE. A recent graduate of the University of Dayton, she loves reading, writing, and supporting all things inclusion.


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