Integrating Characters with Disabilities into Adventure Fiction

…isn’t as easy as it sounds. You have to balance the kinetic pace and movement requirements of adventure fiction with accurate, non-condescending representation. 

If you give a disabled character a fantastical ability that effectively takes away the disability, is that cool or condescending? Ask ten people, get ten answers. So, how do you feel about Daredevil?

What about characters with disabilities who have other abilities that doubt cancel their disabilities, but make them very useful our powerful in other ways? 

The cliche is the psychic our hacker with a mobility disability,  usually one that requires the use of a wheelchair. 

It’s a cliche, but I’ve also heard of a hacker (DC’s Oracle, Barbara Gordon) being called inspirational. Maybe it’s because she worked to learn those skills and keep fighting crime even after she list the use of her legs. 

I’ve never heard the psychic “Disability superpower” coming off that way. Who finds Professor X inspirational?  Maybe someone out there? Maybe not. 

If a story requires a lot of kinetic non-vehicular movement, a character with a serious mobility disability can’t really be the lead, or even “in the party” for those parts.

That doesn’t mean such a character can’t be an important character in other parts of the story. 

And it doesn’t mean that other disabilities can’t be represented. Deaf characters, or characters with partial hearing loss and/ serious tinnitus can bee featured.  

Characters can still be quite mobile with missing or less than fully functional limbs. Hypertrichosis and alopecia universalis, facial deformities/ significant scarring, even albinism can have real effects on a person’s life without preventing them from running, climbing, and jumping. 

This is especially important in nonviolent adventure fiction, where you can’t just have the group’s tough guy fight the bad guys to protect the character with the mobility disability … And that’s kind of crummy even it’s own way because the character with the disability becomes dependent upon the tough guy in a way that feels kind of like “damseling.”

There is inherent value in representation.  People with disabilities can feel invisible in real life. There is no reason to “vanish” them in fiction as well. 


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