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Let’s Talk about Representation!

Our world is made up of all shapes, sizes, colors, gender identities, and abilities. Seeing representation of these qualities is key to impacting how someone relates to mainstream media. Increased diversity through media can contribute to increased acceptance and appreciation and hopefully decreased negative treatment towards others who may not resemble us. Whether it’s in magazines, commercials, television shows, movies, or advertisements, people with disabilities deserve to be included in the messaging, imagery, and conversation.

I and Tana posing for a photo at the 2019 MDA Gala

When we go into clothing stores and see the advertisements on the walls and displays, what types of models do we see? How many of the people have disabilities? The media that we consume can positively or negatively impact our confidence and how we see ourselves in the world. Having realistic representations of our society gives the younger generation and others the ability to see and appreciate the beauty we all have.

People with disabilities are one of the largest minority groups in society, but we remain an untapped market. The Census Bureau estimates that 12.7 percent of people in the United States have some form of disability; similarly, they estimate 12.6 percent of South Dakotans have a disability. Many of us shop, watch movies, go out to restaurants, grab drinks and socialize in much of the same ways people without disabilities do. Sadly, despite these shared activities, people with disabilities aren’t always accurately represented in the mainstream media. If everyone began seeing more people with disabilities represented in a positive light, people with disabilities would feel much more included, seen, and heard rather than invisible and ignored.

It’s human nature to want to see ourselves in everyday images. We all deserve it, no matter who we are or what we look like. Nevertheless, for many of us aren’t depicted, and it needs to change, so, let’s do better and get improved representation as we move forward. Seek to normalize disabilities so that it isn’t uncharacteristic or shocking when we see it.


There have been several television shows that have impressed me with their representation of a person with a disability throughout the years. I have enjoyed Life Goes On, Switched at Birth, MacGyver, NCIS New Orleans and Born this Way to name a few. Are there any television shows or movies you have seen that you have found really enjoyable? Share them! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

©2020 Kendra Gottsleben

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