Yesterday, I was watching a television program, one that I really love, and was enjoying the fact that they finally had a character with a disability. Now I didn't look up to see if the actor was also disabled, sometimes I just want to be an uninformed member of the public, but I did notice that he certainly knew his way around a wheelchair, using at different times 2 of the 3 preferred pushing strokes that wheelchair users typically use. So back to the program.
He was introduced in the second episode. Killed in the third as victim number two of a serial killer. I was so mightily disappointed, I liked the character and how badass, yet complex, he was. So we watched as the cops went through his apartment looking for hints and clues. Weirdly, Joe and I too became detectives.
We wanted to see if the set designers got it right. Could this actually have been the apartment of a wheelchair user? The first shot of the bathroom was too quick to make any kind of assessment. There did seem to be enough room for a chair to get around but then, the cops went into the bathroom. One with absolutely no adaptation for a wheelchair user. Not a bar in sight, no adaptions to the toilet at all, no possibility of shaving at the sink, the tub had a impossibly high step in with no grab bars to steady oneself.
The show completely missed an opportunity to show what an adaptive apartment is, what it looks like. At no time did the cops say anything about wheelchair spaces or tire marking, or anything related to the wheelchair. The spoke of him as a character, but if you read the dialogue you'd never know that he was in a chair. Some see this as progress, I see this as erasure. Of course cops would be talking about his disability, his vulnerability to an attack like the one that killed him, the patterns of his movements and what his level of mobility was - it would matter to determine where he might have been before the murder and where he was planning to go that night.
I'm glad that there was a character on the show, I wish he could have been around a little longer and I wish his life had been better represented.
Is it wrong that I'm still a bit grateful to have seen a character on a show that I like that I could identify a little bit with, even if they made a lot of mistakes about living with a disability?