As portrayals of disability in media are so rare, these TV shows depicting physical disability are often placed under the microscope by critics, fans, and disability activists. When a television show chooses to introduce a character with some form of disability, a lot is at stake in terms of accuracy. Are they writers telling believable stories? Are the characters more than just their disability? Does it matter if an actor is hired for the role who doesn’t share the same disability as their character? Debates often surface surrounding these questions and more, meaning reception to such characters is often polarizing.
Roughly 95% of the time, able-bodied actors play characters with disabilities. Much of the negative public reaction surrounding TV shows about disabilities center on what is perceived as a missed opportunity to hire disabled actors who obviously have a limited number of roles available to them. While Hugh Laurie’s take on Dr. House is considered one of the finest acted performances in TV history, should we care that he isn’t actually disabled in real life? And is the portrayal of House's physical ailments truly realistic? Much like portrayals of mental illness in media, depictions range from incredibly accurate to downright offensive. To learn more about the issue, browse this list below and read up on the controversy, criticism, and praise these physically disabled characters have garnered over the years, then check out our list of the best movies about disabilities.