July 11, 2022
In the media, people with disabilities often aren’t featured as main characters, if they are included at all, so we wanted to share some kid-friendly shows and movies to help teach kids about acceptance and inclusion. Representation in movies and TV shows is important because it shows people, especially younger kids, that not everyone will look or act the same way and that it is important to be accepting no matter what.
For Younger Kids:
1. Raising Dion: A TV show about a boy who finds out he has superpowers that premiered on Netflix in 2019 and features a girl named Esperanza in a wheelchair. The actress who plays Esperanza actually has a rare disease - she was born with osteogenesis imperfecta. Common Sense Media says it’s appropriate for ages 11+. Available on Netflix.
2. Sesame Street: One of the characters, Julia, has autism, and the show explains what autism is and shows her being accepted by the other children. Common Sense Media says it is appropriate for ages 2+. Available on HBO Max and select seasons/episodes are available on Amazon. Julia first appears in season 47.
3. Goldie and Bear: A Disney Jr. show about what happened after Goldilocks and the Three Bears ended that includes a character (Goldie’s mom) uses a wheelchair. Common Sense Media says it’s appropriate for ages 4+. Available on Disney+.
4. Pixar’s SparkShorts: A series of Pixar shorts that have themes of acceptance, friendship, and being ‘different.’ Most of them can be applied in a disability context, but some notable ones are Float, Purl, and Bao. Common Sense Media recommends the shorts for ages 9+. Available on Disney+ and YouTube.
5. How to Train Your Dragon: Hiccup and Toothless show the audience that being different doesn’t make you any less able to accomplish things. Common Sense Media says it is appropriate for ages 7+. Available on Amazon.
6. Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: This show, inspired by Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, takes viewers through the life of 4-year-old Daniel Tiger as he learns important life lessons. One character, Chrissie, is introduced with leg braces and forearm crutches to help her walk, prompting Daniel to learn more about inclusivity and acceptance. Common Sense Media recommends the show for ages 3+. Available on Amazon, or find specific clips on the PBS Learning Media website.
For Older Kids:
7. Gattaca: A sci-fi film that deals with ableism and discrimination, featuring a man with a visual impairment and a heart condition living in a world that utilizes genetic engineering to choose the ‘best’ child to be born. Common Sense Media recommends this film for ages 14+, however reading the reviews and information on the site can help you decide if this movie is appropriate for your child. Available on Amazon.
8. Glee: This popular show featuring high school students in a glee club includes a main character in a wheelchair and a character with Down Syndrome. The show follows the students as they navigate high school and deal with the various challenges that are thrown their way. Common Sense Media recommends the show for ages 14+ but looking at reviews and the content covered by the show can help you decide if the show is right for your teen. Available on Hulu, Disney Plus, and Amazon.
9. Me Before You: This film is based on the 2012 Jojo Moyes novel and chronicles the experiences of recently-paralyzed Will and his new caregiver, Louisa. As they get to know each other, they discover that each has life lessons to teach the other. Common Sense Media recommends the film for ages 14+. Available on Amazon.
10.The Fundamentals of Caring: This film highlights themes of hope and friendship as a teen with muscular dystrophy and his caregiver road trip across America. Common Sense Media recommends the film for ages 16+ but reading parent reviews and other content information on the site can help you decide if the movie is appropriate for your child. Available on Netflix.