Blind Americans Protest Refusal of Entertainment Industry to Cast Them
National Federation of the Blind Comments on Forthcoming TV Series
Baltimore, Maryland (March 12, 2019): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind Americans, issued the following statement today from its President, Mark Riccobono, regarding the portrayal of blind characters and specifically the forthcoming CW television series “In the Dark”:
“The entertainment industry has produced dozens of movies and TV shows portraying blind characters, usually offensively or inaccurately, and not even one of them has featured a blind actor in a recurring lead role. If blind people are included, they play supporting roles, and sometimes there is a single blind writer or consultant. If organizations like the National Federation of the Blind are consulted at all, the consultation occurs after production, and the producers seek validation rather than collaboration. The forthcoming midseason replacement series ‘In the Dark’ is no different. Its producers sought to justify their exclusion of a blind actor from the leading role in a session full of excuses at a recent conference. These excuses were inadequate and needlessly dismissive of blind actors. We have had enough! There are blind actors looking for work, and no sighted actor, however accomplished or talented, can bring the same insight and authenticity to a blind character. Sighted actors receiving attention and awards for portraying blind people is itself deeply offensive. We, and our lives, are not Oscar or Emmy bait. If the entertainment industry and the viewing public are interested in learning about us, that is well and good. But we will define how we are portrayed by taking our rightful place on America’s movie and TV screens.
“We demand that the CW network and the producers of ‘In the Dark’ withdraw the finished episodes and re-shoot them with a blind actor in the starring role. If this demand is not met, we call upon all advertisers involved with the program to withdraw their sponsorship and urge all Americans to join us in enjoying other viewing options if the show airs. Furthermore, the National Federation of the Blind will not endorse or collaborate on any scripted film or TV series with a blind character if its producers do not develop a substantive plan to cast a blind actor. Finally, we will actively oppose and boycott any project where no such plan is in place. We invite the entertainment industry to work proactively with us to identify and develop the talent of blind actors rather than focusing on casting sighted actors under cover of the spurious claim that blind talent cannot be found. The shameful history of Hollywood defining us without our participation ends now.”