According to the World Health Organization, 16% of the global population has a significant disability.
But according to a report from Hopster, just 16% of kids' shows worldwide include disabled characters. And over 50% of those disabled characters were either the villain, or used in a tokenistic way to teach non-disabled kids a lesson.
This only furthers ableism and stigma. Because when children only see those with disabilities as villains, as a lesson, or as a quirky side character, they’re likely to internalize these messages — viewing disability as "othering" or as a bad thing.
Representation benefits all kids.
When disabled kids see disabled characters on-screen, it shows them that they're not alone, that they're valued, and that they can do awesome things.
When non-disabled kids see disabled characters on-screen, it normalizes disability, opens their worlds, and leads to more inclusive behavior in real life.
TV has the potential to reduce disability stigma.
Kids watch a lot of TV, and learn a lot from it. TV could be a powerful resource to teach kids about disability — but networks need to include more representation to get there.
Networks need to show disabled characters in all kinds of shows, and all kinds of stories — not just stories about disability. And the best way to do that is to hire disabled writers and actors to tell those stories authentically.
The key is having disabled characters, but not making it all about their disability.
People live with disabilities, but they also live. TV can show kids that disability is not a bad thing and that disabled people are a lot like everyone else. It shows that people can live full, happy lives with disabilities — working with their own challenges, but also with challenges we all face every day.
It also teaches kids how to interact with disabled people (hint: it's just like they'd interact with everyone else). It teaches them empathy. It teaches them how to be inclusive.
Because when we normalize and celebrate disability for children, we pave the way for a stronger, more inclusive future.
So, we did some digging.
And by digging, we mean watching kid's TV shows to find which ones had disability representation that went beyond just a villain or token character.
Most of these shows have disabled actors and writers, too — portraying disability as authentically and positively as possible.
Have another show that should be on the list? Tell us!
These are the kids' TV shows that have positive disability representation for every age:
Inclusive TV shows for young kids (ages 2-6)
Inclusive TV shows for big kids (ages 6-12)