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Ryan O’Connell: Special Creator Breaks New Ground for Disability and LGBTQ+ Representation

According to GLAAD’s 2018-2019 Where We Are on TV Report, while the 2018-19 television season includes 18 characters with disabilities, versus 16 in 2017-18, that number still vastly underrepresents the actual number of people with disabilities, representing less than one-sixth. Furthermore, while more than one-third of LGBTQ+ adults have a disability, GLAAD’s report found only four LGBTQ+ characters with disabilities.

Ryan O’Connell is helping to change that. His new Netflix series Special premiered earlier this year and broke new ground for representation of LGBTQ+ people and people with disabilities. For Pride Month 2019, RespectAbility asked O’Connell a few questions about his life, intersectionality, and where he hopes Special will go in the future.

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Comedian Ryan Niemiller Wows America’s Got Talent Judges, Uses Platform to Push for More Disability Representation on Television

This season on America’s Got Talent, we already have seen two acts with disabilities audition. On the season premiere, autistic blind singer Kodi Lee earned the golden buzzer from Gabrielle Union, skipping straight to the live shows. In the second audition episode, Ryan Niemiller, a comedian with a disability in both arms, made it through to the next round with a standing ovation and four enthusiastic yeses. Both acts were extremely talented, but the differences in how they were presented is a great case study in how to accurately and positively portray people with disabilities.

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Blind Autistic Singer Earns Season’s First Golden Buzzer on America’s Got Talent

On the season premiere of America’s Got Talent, a 22-year-old blind autistic man sang for the judges and earned the golden buzzer, advancing straight to the live shows. Kodi Lee’s voice and piano skills were exceptional, and it is wonderful to see people with disabilities succeed and be represented on reality television. But unfortunately, the way America’s Got Talent portrayed Lee could have been better.

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America’s Got Talent: The Champions Showcases People with Disabilities for Their Talents

This week on NBC, America’s Got Talent: The Champions crowned Shin Lim as the winner of the title “Best In The World.” But there were plenty of other winners on the show, including several talented acts with disabilities who returned to the Got Talent stage to perform for the world once again.

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Gay and on the Autism Spectrum: My Experience Growing Up in the Closet

Early in the eighth grade, one of my friends posted a video on Facebook using the webcam on his computer and lots of visual effects as a fun waste of time. I decided to steal his idea, making a silly little video that I intended for just my friends to see. This one decision to make and upload a video changed everything.

I did not have the right privacy settings turned on, so anyone could view my profile if they wanted to. Naturally, two of the school bullies found the video, downloaded it and re-uploaded it to YouTube with the comments section turned on. One person wrote “Eric is a r***rd that goes to my school.” As someone who is on the autism spectrum, that really hurt. Other people would walk up to me in the hallway, quoting lines from the video and would just laugh at me. It was horrible, and while I do not think about the situation anymore, I could not stop thinking about it for a long time. This was just one incident in a long personal history of being marginalized and bullied.

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Britain’s Got Talent Leads Way in Disability Inclusion

The story of Britain’s Got Talent 2018 is a story of two hilarious comedians who happen to have disabilities finishing in the top 2: Lee Ridley and Robert White.

Read more at RespectAbility