Follow TV Tropes

This entry is trivia, which is cool and all, but not a trope. On a work, it goes on the Trivia tab.


Disabled Character, Disabled Actor

Go To
Christopher Reeve in Smallville (top) and in real life (bottom).

"We always had a deaf character in the script, but John [Krasinski] really pushed for them to hire Millicent [Simmonds]. She came to set and taught everyone sign language. It was really amazing and brought an extra depth to the film."
Scott Beck on casting for A Quiet Place

Most of the time for film, theater, and television, when a work called for a character with a disability it was the norm to cast perfectly able-bodied actors in those roles, especially if the role was one of the leads (you still want to cast a big name star in the lead role, despite the character's disability, after all). This is about when a disabled person is cast for a role that has a similar disability, rather than an able-bodied performer.

Casting disabled actors as disabled characters is nothing especially new, as individuals like amputees can carry a benefit of not requiring camera tricks or special effects to portray their condition. It has become slightly more commonplace due to disability activists advocating on the importance of this kind of casting, pointing out how difficult it is for disabled actors to get roles at all, let alone when specifically disabled roles are being filled by able-bodied actors.

Generally speaking the type of disability doesn't have to match exactly, only that there is a parallel between the actor and the character in that regard. A character may have been paralyzed from the neck down in an accident while the actor may have little use of their legs due to a childhood illness, but both require wheelchairs to get around. Individuals with unusual conditions have often parlayed that into a certain archetype, disorders that cause unusual body features can lean into such things as a Red Right Hand.

While accommodations can be made, there are production and safety concerns where a non-disabled actor in such a role is justified. For example:

  • If the character is not disabled throughout the whole story. Generally involves the following variations:
  • Filming conditions would be very impractical for the degree of disability such as location travel, stunt work, number of lines, or long shooting hours.
  • The level of disability is too bizarre or exaggerated for any living person, like Half the Man He Used to Be, Covered in Scars, and general Body Horror. Fictional Disability is this by default.
  • The disability is so rare and specific (or has been eradicated, such as polio) that the few people who have it are unlikely to be actors.
  • If based on a real-life person, matching their physical appearance is considered more important than matching their disability.
  • The disability is too unpredictable and distracting to act with (like Tourette Syndrome) and it's easier for an able-bodied actor to focus.

Related to Cast the Expert. See Written-In Infirmity for cases where a performer became disabled during the run of a show and this was acknowledged in-universe, and Queer Character, Queer Actor for the LGBT Sister Trope.


    open/close all folders 

  • A Silent Voice averts this in the original Japanese version, where Shoko is voiced by hearing actress Saori Hayami. However, it is played straight in both the English and French dubs, where Shoko is respectively voiced by deaf actresses Lexi Cowden and Mélanie Lemaistre.

    Audio Drama 
  • Ruth Madeley, who has spina bifida, plays the wheelchair-using companion Hebe Harrison in Big Finish Doctor Who Sixth Doctor Adventures. Despite the fact we obviously can't see her, the thinking seems to be why wouldn't Madeley's character have a wheelchair?

    Films — Animation 
  • The title character in the Mexican film A Costume For Nicholas has Down syndrome, as does his voice actor Fran Fernández.
  • In Wish (2023), Dahlia uses a crutch to walk, and her voice actress, Jennifer Kumiyama, has Arthrogryposis and uses a wheelchair.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Belgian film The Eighth Day has Pascal Duquenne (born with Down syndrome) playing an institutionalised man with Down syndrome.
  • In the 1963 film If A Tree Falls, multiple deaf characters (who played supporting and background characters) are portrayed by real-life deaf actors. It is the first movie of the 1960s ever to have actual deaf actors cast in the film.
  • The Blob (1988): The half-melted soldier seen briefly near the end who Meg grabs the gun from was played by Noble Craig, a real-life triple amputee, who also played numerous other grotesquely shaped creatures in other horror movies, such as Poltergeist II: The Other Side, Bride Of Reanimator, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.
  • The River (1951) featured Thomas Breen as "Captain John", a man who lost a leg in World War I. Thomas Breen lost a leg fighting in Guam in 1944.
  • Amélie: Lucien has one arm. Jamel Debbouze, who played him, has a withered right arm (the result of being struck by a train in 1990), he consistently keeps his right hand hidden in his pocket both in Real Life and in all of his roles. It's conceivable that, while the character of Lucien being "slow" was always the main excuse given by the grocer for being such a giant Jerkass to him, the missing arm was more of a way to explain Jamel's recognizable posture in-universe that they decided to throw in.
  • Hayden Zaller, who plays Brenda's blind son Zack in American Underdog, is himself blind.
  • ...And Your Name Is Jonah: All the deaf characters - Jonah, the little kids at the deaf school, the deaf club his parents attend, and the students at the sign language-friendly school Jonah attends at the end - are played by real deaf people.
  • In The Aviator, Howard Hughes, who famously had OCD, is played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who also has OCD in real life.
  • Baby Driver cast deaf actor CJ Jones as Baby's deaf foster father Joseph.
  • Ben-Hur (1959): One of the more memorable scenes in The War Sequence is a galley slave escaping with a bloodied stump where his hand used to be. The director noticed the man had only one hand, had it splashed with fake blood, and reshot the scene with him.
  • The anti-drug Jesusplotation horror film Blood Freak has a scene where a guy's leg gets cut off, which they managed to make a bit more convincing by hiring a guy with a prosthetic leg to play the victim.
  • A Child Is Waiting is set at an institution for children with emotional disturbances and cognitive disorders. Most of the students are played by real kids who are intellectually disabled from the Pacific State Hospital.
  • In Children of a Lesser God, every deaf character is played by an actual deaf actor.
    • This is true of any role Marlee Matlin plays; notable as she's often the lead.
  • CODA (2021) casts Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, and Daniel Durant, all of whom are deaf, as the deaf family of the hearing protagonist. This also marked a change from the film it remakes, which had hearing actors for the roles.
  • The two eponymous martial artists of The Crippled Masters. Both actors had developmental disorders which had resulted in a lack of legs and a lack of arms respectively and both had since trained in martial arts despite their disabilities.
  • In Cyrano, the eponymous character's big nose angst from the original play is changed to one about dwarfism, and he's played by Peter Dinklage, who has dwarfism.
  • Dangerous Liaisons has an interesting example. To play a castrato, the movie cast Brazilian singer Paulo Abel do Nascimento, whose voice naturally fell in the soprano range due to a hormonal imbalance.
  • David's Mother autistic actor Steven Ivany plays the autistic child David in flashbacks. However, neurotypical actor Michael Goorjian, plays him as a teenager.
  • Similarly, Dawn of the Dead (2004) used several real-life amputees to make some particularly noteworthy zombies, including the Asian man with a chewed off arm that tries to fight his way through the door and the legless zombie that swings across the ceiling pipes monkey-bar style to pounce on one of the survivors.
  • The deformed and maimed characters in El Topo are played by real amputees and people with actual deformities. Of particular note is a legless man who rides on the shoulders of his armless companion.
  • In End of Days, the freaky albino in Christine's Nightmare Sequence was played by the genuinely albinistic actor Victor Varnado.
  • In Eternals, Makkari is deaf like her actress Lauren Ridloff.
  • One of the "found footage" moments in the Mondo film Faces of Death IV involves a junkyard worker whose left leg is severed below the knee while he is attempting to retrieve parts from a wrecked Oldsmobile. The actor was a colleague of the film's producer who had lost his left leg in real life a few years earlier.
  • 2019 short film Feeling Through is billed as the first film to feature as a lead an actor who is deaf and blind (Robert Tarango)
  • In Four Weddings and a Funeral lead character Charles often has conversations in sign language with his deaf-mute brother David, played by real-life deaf actor David Bower.
  • The 1932 movie Freaks featured many legitimately disabled actors, including "Prince Randian" (who was born without limbs), Simon Metz (born with microcephaly, a smaller skull and brain), and Minnie Woolsey (who suffered from Virchow Sekel Syndrome, a combination of skeletal malformation and dwarfism).
  • The Giant (2016): With the exception of Rikard, all the residents of the institution are played by disabled people.
  • Godzilla vs. Kong: Jia is a deaf Iwi girl who communicates with the other characters (including Kong) with sign language and is portrayed by Kaylee Hottle, who is from an all-deaf family.
  • The only role that Oscar-winning actor Harold Russell ever played that was intentionally written as disabled was his role in The Best Years of Our Lives. He played a sailor who lost both hands during World War II (just as Russell himself had in real life, though in a training accident rather than in combat like the character). He ended up winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and another honorary Oscar, having never acted before, becoming the only person who has won two Oscars for the same performance. In all his other roles, he played men who just happened to be disabled, but the disability wasn't the point of the character. Originally, the role had been intended to be a portrait of post-traumatic stress disorder, but it was rewritten once he auditioned.
  • In i am sam, the intellectually disabled protagonist is played by the neurotypical actor Sean Penn, but many of the actors who play his housemates are disabled like their characters.
  • In the 2008 TV film adaptation of the Jacqueline Wilson novel Dustbin Baby, both the character of Poppy and the actor who plays her, Lee Clark, are autistic. Enforced as the BBC specifically searched for an autistic actor to play Poppy. Shortly after the film's release, Clark's mother Nicky, who would be diagnosed with autism herself seven years later, began the "Don't Play Me, Pay Me" campaign, which encouraged disabled actors to play characters with the same disabilities. She has compared non-disabled actors playing disabled characters to blackface, and Clark themself has stated:
    "It is not just mentally disabled actors who lose out when non-disabled people are employed to act them. Audiences think they are getting an authentic portrayal of a mentally disabled person, but they're not. It's not like putting on a different accent or learning what it was like to be raised in a different era. You can't understand what it is like to have a mental disability unless you've really lived with it. When non-disabled people try to portray us, they tend to fall back on stereotypes that have done our community so much harm in the past."
  • The actor Jay C Flippen lost a leg to diabetes in the 1960s. He plays a political operative in a wheelchair in The Seven Minutes, and in Hell Fighters, his character, Jack Lomax, is written in as a man who is in a wheelchair, having broken his back while fighting an oil-well fire.
  • Joseph Mawle is partially deaf and portrayed a profoundly deaf man accused of murder in the Made-for-TV Movie Soundproof.
  • Keep the Change (2017) is about a couple that meets at an autism support group. Everyone in the support group, including the two leads, is played by autistic actors.
  • Lifetime's 2020 film Christmas Ever After features wheelchair user Ali Stroker as the main character.
  • Lonely Are the Brave has Kirk Douglas' character fight a one-armed barroom tough played by one-armed actor Bill Raisch.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the Battle of Helm's Deep features a quick shot of a soldier turning his head toward the camera to reveal an empty eye socket. From IMDb: "The performer who played him showed up as an extra, wearing an eye patch; director Peter Jackson politely asked to see what was under the patch and then inquired if the gentleman would be interested in appearing in the film sans eye patch. The gentleman was reluctant at first and quite self-conscious, but afterward said the experience had made him more comfortable with his condition."
  • Jade Callegory, who played the disabled main character in Mac and Me suffers from spina bifida in real life. When the film was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 they noticeably completely avoided any jokes touching on his disability, likely in deference to this.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road, the very small and mobility-disabled Corpus Colossus is played by Quentin Kenihan, who had the same disabilities due to severe osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease).
  • Mandy (1952) is set at a school for deaf kids. Although lead actress Mandy Miller is hearing, the kids playing her classmates are actually deaf.
  • In Me, Myself & Irene, Michael Bowman, who actually has albinism, plays the neighbor that Jim Carrey erroneously sees as a dangerous freak.
  • Midwinter Night's Dream stars Jovana Mitić, a real autistic child. She couldn't be directed, so Goran Paskaljević shot massive amounts of footage in order to get what he wanted.
  • In Monty Python and the Holy Grail they hired a man with only one leg to play the Black Knight after Arthur chops one of his legs off. Amusingly, the man happened to be named Richard Burton. John Cleese would joke later about having Richard Burton as a stunt double.
  • Nathan's Kingdom stars autistic actor Jacob Lince as the autistic Nathan.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest used actual patients in the institution where they filmed as extras.
  • In Orphan, actress Aryana Engineer, who played deaf character Max, was born partially deaf in real life.
  • In The Peanut Butter Falcon, Zak (the titular character), who has Down syndrome, is played by Zack Gottsagen, who himself has Down syndrome.
  • Posse (1975) was the first role for James Stacy following his 1973 motorcycle accident in which he was hit by a drunk driver, resulting in the loss of his left arm and left leg. Kirk Douglas created the role of Hellman—a journalist missing his left arm and leg as a result of his war service—especially for Stacy.
  • In Precious, Precious' child with Down syndrome is played by a child with Down syndrome.
  • In A Quiet Place, deaf child actress Millicent Simmonds plays a deaf girl.
  • Rain Man, similar to I Am Sam and Cuckoo's Nest (see above) where many autistic extras were used, though the main autistic character, Raymond Babitt, was of course played by neurotypical actor Dustin Hoffman.
  • In Resident Evil: Retribution, the deaf girl Becky, is played by Aryana Engineer, who is deaf in real life. The character Becky was not originally to be deaf, but after an outstanding audition, the role was given to her.
  • The Farrelly Brothers movies often use real handicapped people to play handicapped parts (for example, the mentally handicapped Special Olympians in The Ringer). The Farrellys are heavily involved with working with organizations for the handicapped and disabled and portray them favorably as real, grounded, and likable people, but also without playing up their disabilities, with those characters accepting their handicaps as part of their everyday life, such as Hal's friend with spina bifida in Shallow Hal. This usually also highlights a dichotomy with their protagonists, who have grievances in their lives that seem very superficial compared to the physical and mental disadvantages their friends have.
  • In Road House (1989), the Blind Musician Cody is played by real-life blind musician Jeff Healey.
  • Run stars wheelchair-using actress Kiera Allen as Genius Cripple Chloe.
  • Deaf actor Russell Harvard plays an adult H.W. Plainview (rendered deaf from an explosion) in There Will Be Blood.
  • In the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, a soldier who had just had his legs blown off was played by an actor who had lost his legs years before. In fact, every soldier who was dismembered on the beach was portrayed by actors missing the appropriate limbs.
  • Shaun of the Dead also used amputees for several of the zombies, most notably a one-armed bridegroom, and a legless zombie Shaun and Ed accidentally run over.
  • In the 1980 made-for-TV film Skyward, the protagonist, paraplegic student pilot Julie Ward, was portrayed by paraplegic teenage actress Suzy Gilstrap.
  • In Soul Surfer it is both averted and played straight. Bethany Hamilton, whose life story the film was depicting, was played by able-bodied AnnaSophia Robb in the dialogue scenes. However, Bethany Hamilton ended up playing herself for the stunts.
  • Sound of Metal has many deaf characters, except for Ruben and Joe, played by deaf actors. (In Joe's case, his actor Paul Raci had deaf parents so he was well versed in the subject.)
  • In Spy Kids, Juni and Carmen Cortez's wheelchair-bound grandfather Valentin is played by Ricardo Montalbán, who used a wheelchair himself after he was paralyzed from the waist down by a failed spinal surgery. Valentin's wheelchair can also fly. In Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Valentin regains use of his legs within the VR game Game Over, necessitating his legs to be animated with CGI.
  • In Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, the autistic child Ricky is played by Jesus Sanchez-Velez, who is autistic in real life. Director Sam Fleischner had specifically wanted to cast an autistic person in the role.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day used a quadruple amputee to create part of the effect where the T-1000 freezes and ends up pulling his limbs off while trying to keep moving.
  • The Thing (1982) has a particularly infamous scene where a man's arms are suddenly bitten off by the titular monster. For two shots that each lasted only a few seconds, there was an actual amputee standing in the actor's place wearing a mask in his likeness.
  • In the Ukrainian film The Tribe, which is about a deaf boy joining a boarding school for similar children, the whole cast is legitimately deaf.
  • Tiny Tiptoes plays this straight for the most part by casting actors with dwarfism (including Peter Dinklage) as little people—but bizarrely, Gary Oldman of all people also plays a little person.
  • For The Toxic Avenger, Lloyd Kaufman hired an amputee so Toxie could rip his arm off. Of course, the SFX team still had to make a fake stump to put over the man's actual stump, to compensate for the difference between a freshly ripped-off arm and a healed stump.
  • In the 2010 film of True Grit, a woman missing her left forearm was hired to play the older version of Mattie (whose arm was amputated due to a snake bite near the end) in shots where her face is not seen. She wound up having more screen time than the actress credited with playing older Mattie.
  • Under the Skin contains a male character with facial disfigurements; director Jonathan Glazer did not want to use prosthetics, so the production team contacted the charity Changing Faces, which supports people with such physical disabilities. The role went to Adam Pearson, who has a genetic tumor-forming disorder called neurofibromatosis.
  • Unfriended: Dark Web: Amaya, who's deaf, was played by Stephanie Nogueras, who really is deaf.
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Peter Dinklage plays the X-Men villain Bolivar Trask. In the original comics, the character didn't have dwarfism; but Dinklage's audition was just so good that he got cast due to Ability over Appearance, making it an example of Initially Able-Bodied Character, Disabled Actor. This also gave the impression to some fans (though it doesn’t seem to have been deliberate on the part of the filmmakers) that Trask is envious of mutants with such spectacular abilities while his own genetic condition is so mundane and just makes his life more difficult.

  • An in-universe example: In the novel Dream Park by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Stephen Barnes, during the course of an amazingly elaborate Live Action Roleplaying Game that utilizes high-tech special effects, the players encounter (among other things) a one-armed, one-legged zombie played by a one-legged, one-armed actress. The fact that she's real and not a special effect (most of the zombies are holographic) shocks one of the players into inaction enough to allow the amputee zombie to "kill" her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Accused (2023): In "Ava's Story" Ava, KJ and Sari are all deaf. Their actors Stephanie Nogueras, Josh Castille and Lauren Ridloff are as well.
  • All About Me: Jamil Dhillon has cerebral palsy, much like his character Raj in the show.
  • "All the Light We Cannot See" has the blind character Marie-Laure played by Aria Mia Loberti (present) and Nell Sutton (young), both of whom are blind.
  • American Horror Story: Freak Show played this trope straight, but also averted it. Legless Suzie, Paul the Illustrated Seal, Ma Petite, and Meep are all played by actors that share their conditions. In contrast, Jimmy, Pepper, Elsa, and the Twins are all the result of elaborate special effects. Notably, Jyoti Amage, the actress who plays Ma Petite, has been listed in the Guinness World Records book as the shortest adult woman in the world.
  • American Horror Story: Murder House has one of the lead character's daughters, Adelaide, with Down syndrome; she's played by Jamie Brewer, who has Down syndrome. Brewer went on to become the first person with Down syndrome to model at New York Fashion Week, in 2015. The series' anthology set-up, in which they bring back actors in new roles in later seasons, means that Jamie Brewer appears in American Horror Story: Coven and American Horror Story: Freak Show as well. Her roles in these later seasons do not expressly require an actor with Down syndrome, but Brewer is included the same as her colleagues because it's the nature of the show.
  • Timothy Omundson returned to his role on American Housewife after his stroke, after initially being written out leaving his wife for a younger woman...who then ditched him after he had a stroke.
  • As We See It: In an exceedingly rare turn of events, all of the autistic characters (and even some neurotypical characters) are played by autistic actors, including the main characters Violet, Jack, and Harrison, who are played by Sue Ann Pien, Rick Glassman, and Albert Rutecki, respectively.
  • Avocado Toast: Marvin, like Prince Amponsah who played him, lost both hands and suffered burns due to being in a fire.
  • Kurt Dykhuizen, who was born deaf, played Jason on Barney & Friends. He shared some ASL, but his hearing aid never came up in conversation.
  • Josh in Best Foot Forward is an amputee whose actor, Logan Marmino, was found after a national open-casting call for a kid with a lower-limb deficiency.
  • Breaking Bad: RJ Mitte has mild cerebral palsy in real life. Walt Jr. was conceived from the start as having it, and Mitte had to learn to walk with crutches and speak less clearly to portray the level of affectation that the show's creator had in mind.
  • Call the Midwife tends to cast disabled actors to play disabled patients of the week. For example, June Dillen (a deaf mother) was played by Genevieve Barr, who is profoundly deaf in real life and Marion Irmsby (a blind mother-to-be) was played by Ellie Wallwork, who is blind in real life. As regards recurring characters: Reggie Jackson has Down syndrome, as does his actor Daniel Laurie.
  • Christopher Reeve, who was tetraplegic and used a wheelchair, played wheelchair user Dr. Virgil Swann on Smallville.
  • Class (2016): The character Jackie Maclean, April's mother, was in a car crash that left her in a wheelchair. She's played by the wheelchair user and disability consultant Shannon Murray.
  • The Cleaner (UK): Helena in "The Neighbour" is played by Ruth Madeley, who requires a wheelchair. The main difference is that Helena was paralyzed in a car accident while Ruth Madeley has spina bifida.
  • The Colbert Report's host, "Stephen Colbert", is deaf in his right ear. So is the comedian who plays him, the actual Stephen Colbert.
  • On an episode of Cold Case, the Victim of the Week Andy lost his hearing at age 7 due to meningitis and receives a cochlear implant shortly before his murder. The actor portraying Andy, Ryan Lane is deaf in real life, as are the actors playing his parents, both of whom are also deaf, and background extras playing various students at his school.
  • It took nearly forty years, but a passing reference in "Columbo: A Trace Of Murder" eventually confirmed that, like his actor Peter Falk, Columbo has one real and one glass eye.
    [to the forensic investigator] "...three eyes are better than one"
  • The Company You Keep: Olivia Nicolletti is deaf and portrayed by deaf actress Shaylee Mansfield.
  • Coronation Street has had a few wheelchair-using characters in its time, though previously they were played by able-bodied actors. Currently, however, both Izzy Armstrong and actress Cherylee Houston, who plays her, suffer from a rare connective tissue disorder, Type III Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Additionally, the character Alex Warner has Down Syndrome: he is played by Liam Barstow, who also has the condition.
  • CSI:
    • Robert David Hall, who lost his legs in 1978 when an 18-wheeler crushed his car, played coroner Dr. Al Robbins. His character's legs were lost when he was hit by a drunk driver; both Hall and Robbins walk using prosthetics and a cane.
    • Deanne Bray played the head of a school for the deaf and Grissom's ex-girlfriend in "Sounds of Silence."
    • In "The Two Mrs. Grissoms," Marlee Matlin played a professor at an institute for the deaf.
  • CSI: NY:
    • Grant Albrecht, who played wheelchair-user Dr. Leonard Giles in five season 1 episodes, has a spinal cord condition that leaves him reliant on crutches or a wheelchair himself.
    • In "Silent Night," Marlee Matlin played a deaf mother whose deaf daughter was murdered by the girl's deaf boyfriend (played by Russell Harvard, who is also deaf).
    • Bryan Anderson, who lost three limbs in the Iraqi War, played a triple amputee in the season 4 episode, "DOA for a Day."
  • While Private Godfrey's infirmity was played up for comic effect in Dad's Army, Arnold Ridley actually had been very badly wounded during the Battle of the Somme and so, like Godfrey, was rather frail and fragile.
  • Geri Jewell, who played Jewel on Deadwood and Geri on The Facts of Life, actually has cerebral palsy.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Mid-eighties recurring villain Sil is a mostly-aquatic sentient amphibian who is very clumsy on land and has to be carried around on a litter by flunkies. In reality, Nabil Shaban, who played him, has severe osteogenesis imperfecta and uses a wheelchair.
    • In the 2015 story "Under the Lake"/"Before the Flood", the deaf military scientist Cass was played by deaf actress Sophie Stone.
    • In the 2018 story "It Takes You Away", blind character Hanne is played by blind actress Ellie Wallwork.
    • In the 2023 story "The Star Beast", Shirley Anne Bingham, a UNIT scientist with a Super Wheelchair, is played by Ruth Madeley who was born with spina bifida and uses a wheelchair in real life.
  • A fifth-season episode of Drunk History entitled "Civil Rights" discusses the 1977 504 Sit-in, in which disability rights activists staged a protest in a California federal building; all of the activists were played by actors with disabilities, including Sean Berdy (Switched at Birth), Lauren Potter (Glee) and Ali Stroker (Spring Awakening), among others.
  • Darryl Mitchell: paraplegic in real life as well as on Ed and Brothers.
  • The fifth season of Engrenages featured a traffic accident investigator played by an extremely short actor. He was shown to use various aids to use normal-sized furniture but his stature was never discussed in dialogue.
  • Everything's Gonna Be Okay:
    • The autistic character Matilda is played by autistic actress Kayla Cromer. Since this trope is relatively uncommon when it comes to casting autistic characters, Cromer's performance is notable for wholly averting the Hollywood Autism trope, and being a Rare Female Example of such to boot.For instance... This also goes for Lillian Carrier, who plays Drea, Matilda's classmate and eventual love interest, and is also an autism consultant on the show. Ironically, show creator Josh Thomas would later discover that he was autistic, too, and his character Nicholas was subsequently diagnosed with autism as well.
    • Season 2 adds Eric, Alex's deaf father, who is played by deaf actor CJ Jones.
  • Fargo: Actor Allan Dobrescu has cerebral palsy, as does his character, Charlie Gerhardt. Similarly, Mr. Wrench, a season one antagonist and fan-favorite character, is a deaf hitman played by deaf actor Russell Harvard.
  • Michael J. Fox:
    • Fox, who has Parkinson's Disease and had retired from major acting roles, has returned to a lead role by playing a TV News reporter with Parkinson's who is returning to his news show after retiring when he was diagnosed.
    • He's also played Louis Canning on The Good Wife, a lawyer who has a similar condition and shamelessly plays it up for sympathy before juries.
    • He also played himself on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, where Larry David is convinced that Fox intentionally shook up a soda Fox had given him and used his Parkinson's as an excuse (they had gotten into a bit of a shouting match shortly before Fox offered the soda as a peace offering).
    • In a lot of his characters these days, the character is given the same condition to explain Fox's movements, but it's more "We want Michael J. Fox" than "we want a disabled character and if the actor's the same it'll tug at the heartstrings all the more." Which is pretty awesome when you think about it.
    • Played with in Scrubs, where Fox played a surgeon with OCD; a psychological rather than physical condition, but one that could result in the same visible symptoms.
  • The Fugitive cast Bill Raisch as the One-Armed Man, who'd lost his right arm in World War II.
  • The Full Monty (2023) cast Lewis Whele, who has cerebral palsy, as Gaz's grandson Ben. Ben's need of a motorized wheelchair is a Healthcare Motivation for Gaz to earn money to pay it.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In the episode "Blackwater", the Baratheon lieutenant whom Tyrion surprises from behind by chopping his leg off with an axe was played by a one-legged war veteran with a fake leg for the special effect. In the commentary track, Peter Dinklage muses that he didn't feel particularly heroic, ambushing an 80-year-old cripple. Also if you think of dwarfism as a disability, which some do and some don't, you'll of course notice Tyrion is played by Peter Dinklage who actually has dwarfism.
    • Also in Game of Thrones, the blind Maester Aemon is played by Peter Vaughan, who was visually impaired. He previously played more blind characters since his impairment in other shows as well.
  • Ginny and Georgia: Clint Baker, Max and Marcus' dad, is deaf. He's played by actor Chris Kenopic, who is deaf too.
  • Glee has both played this trope straight with one-off character Sean (played by paraplegic actor Zack Weinstein) and Becky and Jean (both actresses do have Down syndrome) and (to much controversy) averted it with Artie. This was because there were multiple dream sequences where Artie was able to walk, which would not have been possible with an actual paraplegic actor.
  • Good Omens Season 2 introduces Saraquel, an Angel who uses a wheelchair as their actress Liz Carr does in real life. In scenes in Heaven, their wheelchair floats, and on earth they are able to do miracles that make inaccessible places accessible. Notably, the character was not written with any disability in mind— Carr was cast in Ability over Appearance for her pitch-perfect humor and sarcasm— and so their use of a mobility aid is treated as a complete non-issue.
  • Grimm: Deaf actress Stephanie Nogueras plays a deaf naiad named Elly.
  • Guiding Light: actress Amy Ecklund, who is deaf, was hired to play deaf Amish girl Abigail. Towards the end of her tenure on the show, both actress and character received a cochlear implant.
  • Hawaii Five-O: The episode "Hookman" had special guest Jay J. Armes, who lost his hands in a childhood accident and had them replaced with hooks (which he utilized to good effect). He played an ex-con who tracked down and killed the cops responsible for his arrest (he had lost his hands while holding explosive charges during a bank robbery; he learned how to use his hook hands in prison).
  • Highlander: The Series has Jim Byrnes as Joe Dawson, and both he and his character are double leg amputees.
  • Hollyoaks features Phoenix Hathaway, played by Tylan Grant; both are autistic.
  • Impulse (2018): Zoe, Townes' girlfriend, turns out to have a prosthetic arm as she's an amputee. She's played by Angel Giuffria, who shares her disability, using her actual prosthesis.
  • In Plain Sight has actor J. Grant Albrecht, who uses a wheelchair due to a spinal condition, play an Assistant District Attorney who just happens to be in a wheelchair. His disability has never been mentioned on the show.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): Rachel Alana Handler is an amputee who portrays Peg Leg Doris (yes, that's indeed the character's name as listed in the end credits).
  • Kids Incorporated averted this with one-off blind character Suzanne, whose actress Angela Lee is actually sighted in reality, but played it straight with another one-off, a clown played by Henry Holden - both the character and actor are crippled. As this link proves, the show had several more disabled characters after Holden's guest appearance, such as Jade Calegory of Mac and Me fame in the episode "The Guitarist".
  • Kirby Buckets featured Sprint Phillips, who is played an athlete that was born missing his left knee and left shin bone along with having only one finger on his left hand.
  • In La Brea, actress and amputee Zyra Gorecki portrays Izzy Harris, who is also an amputee. Her disability plays a major role in the first five minutes of the pilot.
  • Sam from The Last of Us (2023) is deaf and his actor, Keivonn Woodward, is also deaf. The cast and crew also learned ASL so they could communicate with Keivonn; the ASL expert hired for the episode gave lessons to whomever had the time to sit down with him, and almost everyone who could did so.
  • Law & Order:
    • Clark Middleton, whose struggle with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis impacted his growth and prevents him from having full range of motion, spent two years on Law & Order as Doctor Ellis, one of the show's Medical Examiners. Ellis's lab has access ramps, lower counters, and examination tables, and is built to "little person" scale, something once remarked upon by Lennie Briscoe. Most of Middleton's other roles, however, were characters who just happened to be disabled.
    • Law & Order: Criminal Intent:
      • During the fourth season Captain Deakins suffered through a bout of Bell's Palsy and was forced to wear an eyepatch for several episodes. This was because the actor playing Deakins, Jamey Sheridan, was actually suffering through a bout of Bell's Palsy and was forced to wear an eyepatch.
      • Season six features many deaf actors as deaf characters in "The Silencer" about the murder of a doctor who provides cochlear implants, which radical deaf activists oppose.
    • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
      • This trope is both invoked and subverted in the episode "Competence", about a young woman, Katie, who has Down syndrome. She becomes pregnant after being tricked into having sex by her boss (she doesn't understand what's going on - he tells her it's "exercise" and her mother sheltered her enough that she didn't know better). She wants to keep the baby, but her mother fears she isn't mentally capable of raising a child. While Andrea Fay Friedman (who played Katie) does have Down syndrome, her mentally disabled boyfriend is played by a non-disabled actor.
      • Both played straight and subverted with two-shot character Amy Soleway, portrayed by deaf actress Marlee Matlin. Soleway is deaf (as most of Matlin's characters are), but in her second appearance in "Parts", she is also unable to walk and uses a wheelchair, an additional disability that Matlin does not have.
  • LazyTown has a Diagnosis of Saint Paul example: Stefán Karl Stefánsson stated that Robbie Rotten has ADHD, OCD and Tourette's, all of which he also had, but that Robbie doesn't manage his symptoms as well as Stefán did.
  • Polish TV series Leśniczówka has main character's deaf-mute sister played by deaf actress Iwona Cichosz, former Miss Deaf International.
  • Corky from Life Goes On had Down syndrome, as did Chris Burke, the actor who portrayed him.
  • Actor Mitch Longley was paralyzed in a car accident his senior year in high school. Despite this, he went on to be a very successful actor, with roles on several TV shows and Soap Operas, including one where he played a physician. He was written as "normally" as possible. Any difficulties in mobility were also incorporated into the show; a narrow-minded supervisor was reluctant to let him participate in a surgical rotation, and he was given a groundbreaking storyline in which his character embarked on a romance with another — it was made clear that his injuries had not affected his sexual abilities.
    "My disability is a huge thing to some people, but to me, it's just a personal characteristic like hair color. I'm hoping that in a few years, it won't even be an issue for me as an actor because it will be so commonplace."
  • The L Word: Deaf actress Marlee Matlin plays deaf lesbian Jodi. Deanne Bray, who's deaf as well, plays Amy, whom she sees briefly before having a very nasty (public) breakup which includes a lot of fast, furious signing in ASL.
  • MacGyver (1985): Dana Elcar, who portrayed Pete Thorton, developed glaucoma during the course of the series, resulting in Thorton also being depicted as going blind from glaucoma in later seasons of the series.
  • A number of episodes of M*A*S*H had blind actor Tom Sullivan playing a blind character.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Hawkeye (2021): Maya "Echo" Lopez, a deaf martial artist with a prosthetic leg, is played by newcomer Alaqua Cox, who is also deaf and an amputee.
    • Echo (2024):
      • Deaf amputee actress Alaqua Cox reprises her role playing Maya Lopez, who shares Cox's disabilities.
      • It turns out that Maya's mother Taloa was deaf too. She's played by deaf actress Katarina Ziervegalos.
  • In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Gets a New Shrink", when Dr. Kroger throws in the towel and quits his profession after his cleaning lady is killed in his office, Monk is redirected to a colleague of Dr. Kroger's, Dr. Jonah Sorensen, who has an amputated right arm as the consequence of a boating accident (though Dr. Kroger appears unaware of this, given that in a later scene he states "I heard he lost some weight"). Dr. Sorensen's actor is an actual amputee, and the idea as to what kind of physical abnormality he should have was Tony Shalhoub's.
  • The Murders: Meg's wife Emily, who's deaf, was played by deaf actress Casar Jacobson.
  • The Murdoch Mysteries episode "8 Footsteps" features Historical Domain Character Helen Keller, who was deaf-blind, played by deaf Canadian actress Amanda Richer.
  • My Name Is Earl:
    • Didi the one-legged woman that Earl slept with (and stole a car and prosthesis from) is played by an actress that does, indeed, have only one real leg.
    • Didi's unnamed boyfriend is played by an actor/motivational speaker who is missing both legs and one of his arms.
    • Marlee Matlin also played Joy's deaf lawyer, who used sign language interpreters to help with her work. They playfully made a gag where Earl loved her "accent."
  • Nancy Drew (2019): Ace has a father Thom who's Deaf and lost his hearing after investigating a case. He's play by Anthony Natale, who's also Deaf in Real Life.
  • NCIS: New Orleans has the Black and Nerdy Genius Cripple Patton "Triple-P" Plame, who uses a wheelchair. His actor, Daryl "Chill" Mitchell, has used a wheelchair since being paralyzed in a motorcycle accident.
  • New Tricks introduced Holly Griffin (daughter of retired cop Danny Griffin), played by Storme Toolis, in series 9. Both Griffin and Toolis are wheelchair users due to cerebral palsy.
  • Not Dead Yet: Rick Glassman plays Edward, Nell's autistic roommate who is also an environmental lawyer.
  • One Life to Live features Michael Zaslow, who played David Renaldi; he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease and confined to a wheelchair. The character, who was absent from the show for several years, was given the same diagnosis when he returned. Also a case of The Character Died with Him, as David was written to have passed away in 1998 when Zaslow did.
  • Two-episode wonder The Paul Reiser Show attempted this, with Paul's older son being played by Brock Waidmann, who has spina bifida. He wasn't in either of the two episodes that aired.
  • In Ponysitters Club, Olivia's cousin Kyle is in a wheelchair. This is treated as wholly incidental to his character and the exact nature of his disability is unspecified. Kyle's actor, Wesley Magee-Saxton, uses a wheelchair in real life due to cerebral palsy.
  • Power Rangers Dino Fury: Izzy's cousin Lily has CHARGE syndrome and is a Special Olympics athlete (just like Sarah Dalton, the actress playing her). The only time her disability is mentioned is when the humans explain what the Special Olympics are to Zayto.
  • Actor Michael Patrick Thornton, who is partially paralyzed and uses a wheelchair regularly (though he can walk for short distances), can regularly be seen playing a doctor who just happens to be in a wheelchair on Private Practice.
  • The title character in Professor T. has OCD. In the British remake, he is played by Ben Miller, who also has OCD in real life.
  • Raising Dion: Dion's friend Esperanza uses a wheelchair because she has Type 3 brittle bone disease. Her actress, Sammi Haney, also has this condition in real life.
  • Reservation Dogs has Those Two Guys Mose and Mekko, rap-spitting twins with dwarfism. This is the case for their real-life actors, Lil Mike and Funny Bone, with the only difference being that they're merely brothers and not twins.
  • The BBC Made-for-TV Movie Don't Take My Baby revolves around a disabled couple - one in a wheelchair and one visually impaired. Wheelchair-using actress Ruth Madeley plays Anna (the former). The latter is played by visually abled Adam Long - but a counselor who advises him on his condition is played by Ross Grant, who actually has that eye condition.note 
  • For See, in which most of humanity has gone blind, a number of blind and legally blind people were involved in the production, such as consultant Joe Strechay and actresses Marilee Talkington and Bree Klauser.
  • In several episodes of 7th Heaven, Matt has a deaf girlfriend named Heather. She's played by Andrea Ferrell, who is deaf in real life.
  • The Sex Lives of College Girls: Jocelyn, who uses a wheelchair, is played by Lolo Spencer, an influencer and disability activist who herself has used one since the age of 19 due to having ALS.
  • The Society: Sean Berdy, who plays Sam, really is deaf.
  • Sonny Spoon has Jim Byrnes as the main character's sometimes sidekick. Both actor and character have no legs.
  • Speechless has Micah Fowler playing J.J. DiMeo, both of whom have cerebral palsy and normally get around in a motorized wheelchair. J.J.'s disabled friends are also played by disabled actors.
  • Star Trek: Discovery:
    • A Starfleet officer in a wheelchair (well, hoverchair) made background appearances in several first- and second-season episodes. He is played by wheelchair-using actor George Alevizos.
    • From "There is a Tide..." and "That Hope Is You, Part 2," Aurellio, the Emerald Chain scientist who uses a hoverchair, is played by Kenneth Mitchell, who has ALS and started to use a wheelchair in October of 2019. This is an interesting case of Written-In Infirmity since Mitchell had played a number of (non-disabled) characters in the first and second seasons before his ALS was diagnosed. The producers created the character of Aurellio to retain his talents.
  • Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: Hemmer, a member of a blind species, is played by Bruce Horak, the franchise's first blind actor.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation featured an episode called "Loud as a Whisper," about a deaf mediator named Riva. The actor who portrayed Riva, Howie Seago, was actually deaf. In fact, he had petitioned the producers of the show to make an episode about deaf people, mostly to dispel myths about them. He suggested the resolution after the initial script had a quite different ending, which had Riva learning to speak overnight after being unable to use a translator.
  • St. Elsewhere: Like his character Lee Tovan in "Hearing", Robert Daniels is deaf.
  • Stranger Things:
    • Averted with Aimee Mullins, who plays Terry Ives. Mullins is a double-legged amputee who has given TED talks about prostheses, while the character is disabled in a completely different way but (presumably) has both of her natural legs.
    • Played straight with Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin). In the first episode, Dustin states he has cleidocranial dysplasia, which is also true of Matarazzo. That's the reason for his missing front teeth and being able to do "that thing" with his shoulders.
  • Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye, based on the true story of a deaf FBI agent, features numerous deaf actors playing deaf characters. Most of them, excepting Deanne Bray in the title role and Sue Thomas in a cameo, act entirely in American Sign Language. Heroes would later cast Deanne Bray as the deaf character Emma, with her power of enhanced synesthesia being tied into her disability.
  • Shoshannah Stern plays deaf hunter Eileen Leahy on Supernatural.
  • All the major deaf characters in Switched at Birth are played by actors with some sort of hearing impairment, most being profoundly deaf.
  • This Is Us deliberately went searching for a genuinely blind actor to play Blind Musician Jack Damon. They ended up finding Blake Stadnik, a musical theater actor who'd never done any onscreen work but immediately impressed everyone by having everything they needed for the role, in particular, his singing skills. He's one of the first visually impaired actors to have a major role in a network TV series.
    • At the same time, the crew also created the character Gregory, who is physically disabled after a stroke, specifically for Timothy Omundson for his return to acting after a similarly debilitating stroke.
  • Titans (2018) cast deaf actor Chella Man as Joey Wilson/Jericho (son of supervillain Deathstroke), who is mute and communicates with ASL.
  • Titus had an episode where Christopher was in a bad car accident and in the hospital, with the family trying to figure out what to do. A one-off gag had a kid in a motorized wheelchair harass Dave by blocking his path and eventually chasing after him. It so happens the kid was legitimately disabled and was on-set because of the Make-a-Wish Foundation as he was a big fan of the show, and the producers wrote in the gag as a surprise for him.
  • Twin Peaks has Gerard, a.k.a. The One-Armed Man, who cut off his own arm as penance and to rid himself of the tattoo that allowed the demon MIKE to possess him. He is played by Al Strobel, who lost an arm at the shoulder in a car accident as a teenager.
  • Sally, a Special Olympian and one-time character in the Walker, Texas Ranger episode "Special Witness", has Downs Syndrome. Her actress, Andrea Fay Friedman has Downs Syndrome in real life. In another episode, Gage attends a school for the deaf after temporarily losing his hearing, with actually deaf students and teachers.
  • Season 9 of The Walking Dead (2010) introduces Connie, who is deaf and played by deaf actress Lauren Ridloff. Her sister, Kelly, begins to lose her hearing in Season 10 and is played by the hard-of-hearing Angel Theory.
  • Grandma Esther Walton was depicted as suffering a stroke on The Waltons, after Ellen Corby, the actress who played her, suffered one in 1976.
  • The West Wing had Marlee Matlin as Joey Lucas. Both Matlin and Lucas are deaf.
  • S. Robert Morgan, who played Butchie on The Wire, is actually blind. The only difference is that Morgan lost his sight to macular degeneration while Butchie lost it to a gunshot wound.
  • You (2018):
    • Daniel Durant plays Love's deaf husband James, who's deaf like him (shown in her flashbacks).
    • Dante's actor, Ben Mehl, was born with Stargardt's disease and is legally blind.
  • In the Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist episode "Zoey's Extraordinary Silence", the deaf character Abigail is played by deaf actress Sandra Mae Frank (who also played Wendla in the Deaf West revival of Spring Awakening).

    Music Videos 
  • In New Order's "True Faith" video, the man with one leg sitting on a plank watching the band perform on a head-mounted video screen was portrayed by Thierry Fournier, an actually one-legged childhood friend of director Philippe Decoulfé.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Professional wrestler Gregory Iron genuinely has cerebral palsy. Most bad guys he feuds with will either mock his disability or claim he's faking it.
  • Professional wrestler Zack Gowen lost his left leg to cancer at the age of eight. He usually wrestles without a prosthetic.

  • The BBC Radio 4 sitcom Abled is written by and stars Lee "Lost Voice Guy" Ridley, and is "semi-autobiographic". Ridley's character Matt has the same cerebral palsy he does, and likewise uses an iPad to speak. (Although it also stars able-bodied actor Andrew Hayden-Smith as Matt's "inner voice".)
  • Patch the Pirate stars Ron Hamilton, who lost an eye due to cancer and came up with the idea of a pirate character who would similarly wear an eye patch.

  • This trope is discussed in-universe and played with in Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan, where the disabled main character attempts to get cast in a film about a crippled boy. He doesn't get the part because the filmmakers would rather "cast a normal fella who can act crippled, than a crippled fella who can't act at all." It's also a moment of Leaning on the Fourth Wall, as the actor who plays Cripple Billy is almost always able-bodied.
  • In a subversion of this trope (Abled Character, Disabled Actor), wheelchair-using actor David Adkins often appears in stage productions playing characters who aren't wheelchair users normally and usually does so to rave reviews. He was even once cast in a production of Julius Caesar as Octavius and performed the entire part from his wheelchair, which the rest of the cast simply pretended was not there.
  • The 2015 revival of Spring Awakening reimagines about half the characters as deaf and cast actual Deaf actors to portray them (with separate performers singing and speaking their lines on their behalf, with the entire show simultaneously performed in American Sign Language). The revival cast also includes Ali Stroker, the first Broadway performer to be in a wheelchair.
  • Ali Stroker also had an example of "initially able-bodied character, disabled actor" with her Tony-winning portrayal of Ado Annie in the 2019 revival of Oklahoma!.
  • The Czech actor Jan Kašpar was paralyzed after falling from a tree. All future plays of his theatre group (Jára Cimrman Theatre in Prague) specifically included either a part of a wheelchair-bound man or a part where the actor spends the whole play sitting in one spot and never moves from it. (Which also led to aversion — Kašpar often alternated his parts with another, able-bodied actor.)
  • Deaf Broadway actor Joshua Castille, who debuted as Ernst in the aforementioned Deaf West production of Spring Awakening, went on to play deaf teenager Billy in Nina Raine's Tribes, and Quasimodo in the 5th Avenue Theatre production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the latter's singing voice being provided by EJ Cardona. Castille also portrayed a deaf Romeo in ACT's 2019 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, along with fellow deaf actor Howie Seago playing Friar Laurence.
  • Of the four characters in Cost of Living, one has cerebral palsy and the other is a quadriplegic. The stage directions at the start of the script specifically requested the use of disabled actors. The original production featured an actor with cerebral palsy and an actress born without her lower legs as the quadriplegic.
  • The musical How to Dance in Ohio follows a group of young adults who are part of an Autism treatment program, and all of the actors playing the parts in the Broadway cast are themselves on the autism spectrum.
  • Some productions of Richard III have cast disabled actors as the titular hunchbacked character, such as the Royal Shakespeare Company casting Arthur Hughes (who has radial dysplasia, a condition which means that his right wrist is disfigured and his right arm lacks a thumb and radius bone) in a 2022 production, or Peter Dinklage playing Richard in a 2004 production for the Public Theatre.
  • The Mc Carter Theatre production of Ride the Cyclone, for the most part, had Yannick-Robin Eike Mirko as the first physically-disabled actor playing Ricky Potts, a physically-disabled character. As well as being mistreated by the choreographer, he was fired after he got physically sick one night, violating Title 1 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Video Games 

  • Leif & Thorn: In-universe version: the historical Brod had dwarfism, and so does the actor who portrays him in Leachtric.

    Web Animation 
  • Run Jump Play is a Canadian animated webseries that follows various autistic children as they "find courage, friendship and fun through sport" and is accompanied by a series of YouTube video interviews with real-life autistic people and their parents. At least two of the children featured in the cartoons, Luke and Sanjay, are respectively voiced by real autistic children named Jacob and Sahil, both of whom have been interviewed for the channel.

    Web Videos 
  • Critical Role: Ashton Greymoore from Campaign 3 was severely injured several years before the start of the story, and is eventually revealed to suffer from chronic pain as a direct result. Taliesin Jaffe, who plays Ashton, suffers from chronic pain himself, and has talked about how he uses Ashton as an outlet for his own experiences with it.
  • In the web series The Guild, both the character of Venom and the actress who portrays her, Teal Sherer, are paraplegic.
  • The Irish Short Film Nobody's Perfect is about autism. A minor character Anthony, who has a meltdown when the protagonist antagonises him, is played by Bobby Calloway (who is autistic). Ironically he had to be coached on how to do the meltdown the way the director wanted (the director Joseph Stephen Fuller himself is autistic).
  • Thomas Sanders: In the Cartoon Therapy episode "What Avatar: The Last Airbender Can Teach Us About Self-Worth'', both Talyn and the character of Kai have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

    Western Animation 
  • Porky Pig was originally voiced by Joe Dougherty, who suffered from an actual stutter. He was eventually replaced when the stutter made recording too difficult. His replacement, Mel Blanc, reproduced the stutter, and it has since become one of Porky's defining characteristics.
  • The BBC children's show Pablo is notable for its voice cast, which consists entirely of autistic actors voicing the title character and his imaginary animal friends, each of whom personifies a different sign of autism. However, Pablo is portrayed by twins William and Oliver Burns in the live-action scenes; whether or not either twin is autistic in real life is unknown.
  • Big Nate: Amy uses a wheelchair like her voice actress, Ali Stroker.
  • Family Guy:
    • In the episode "Extra Large Medium", Chris dates Ellen, a girl with Down Syndrome. Ellen was voiced by Andrea Fay Friedman, who has Down Syndrome in real life.
    • Peter's deaf co-worker Stella is voiced by deaf actress Marlee Matlin.
  • The Fancy Nancy episode "Nancy's New Friend" introduces Lionel's cousin Sean, who is autistic. He's voiced by George Yionoulis, who's also autistic.
  • Firebuds:
    • Jazzy Jones has spina bifida and her wheelchair car/vroomate, Piper Porter, helps her move around. Jazzy's speaking voice actress, Lauren 'Lolo' Spencer, has muscular dystrophy and also uses a wheelchair.
    • In the episode "All That Jazzy," a dancer named Ayanna also has spina bifida and her wheelchair car/vroomate, Gliderbella, helps her move around. Ayanna is voiced by Tatiana Lee and Gliderbella is voiced by Ali Stroker, and both actresses use wheelchairs.
  • The Ghost and Molly McGee: Oliver's sister, June, is autistic, like her actress, Sue Ann Pien.
  • CJ Casagrande from The Loud House and The Casagrandes has Down syndrome, just like his voice actor Jared Kozak.
  • Monster High:
    • In G3, Kayla Cromer, an autistic actress, voices the autistic Twyla Boogeyman.
      • Tangina Stone, Twyla's singing voice actress in her music video in G3, is also autistic.
    • In both generations he is in, Finnegan Wake has a motor disability in his tail and uses a wheelchair. His voice actor in G3, Cole Massie, has cerebral palsy and either uses his wheelchair or a walker.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Trade Ya", one of the vendors in the Chain of Deals plot is a pegasus character with his legs fitted into something similar to "Walkin' Wheels". The character is voiced by a young fan with spinal muscular atrophy, and this was the result of a Make-a-Wish charity effort.
  • Melody is a live-action/animated TV show that aims to introduce children to classical music and was particularly made with visually impaired children in mind. The title character is partially sighted herself, as is her actress Angharad Rhodes.
  • One of the puppies in 101 Dalmatian Street, Delgado, is in a wheelchair like his voice actor Jack Binstead.
  • Zuma from PAW Patrol has Elmuh Fudd Syndwome, preventing him from pronouncing his R's correctly. Same goes for his first voice actor, Alex Thorne. Subverted in later seasons due to new voice actors for the pups.
  • In the SparkShort Loop, one of the characters is a non-verbal autistic thirteen-year-old named Renee, who communicates through her phone and making approving and disapproving noises. She's voiced by Madison Bandy, who's also autistic and mostly non-speaking.
  • The sixth season of PJ Masks introduces polar bear themed superhero, Ivan/Ice Cub, who uses a wheelchair and crutches during the day, and rides a snowboard or uses his arms to move around in his night hero mode. He is voiced by Nylan Parthipan, who was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age 2.
  • The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder: Aiden Dodson, the voice actor of BeBe, is autistic like the character.
  • The Irish show Punky claims to be the first animated series to have a main character with Down syndrome. The title character is voiced by Aimée Richardson, who also has the condition.
  • Punky Brewster has the Emmy-nominated episode "Bright Eyes", which featured a deaf boy whose voice was furnished by an actual deaf child. Cherie communicates with him through sign language.
  • Pupstruction: Scarlett Kate Ferguson, the voice actor of Roxy, is in a wheelchair like her character due to her cerebral palsy.
  • In the British children's cartoon The Rubbish World of Dave Spud, the title character's sister Anna uses a wheelchair, as does her voice actress Lisa Hammond. However, while that appears to be the extent of Anna's disability, Hammond also has dwarfism, making this something of a downplayed example.
  • Spirit: Riding Free: Eleanor Kimble uses a wheelchair like her actress, Cassidy Huff.
  • Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go: Bruno's voice actors in both English dubs, Chuck Smith in the US dub and Elliot Garcia in the UK dub, are autistic just like the character they voice.
  • Wonder Pets!. Ming-Ming has Elmuh Fudd Syndwome. In fact, her voice actress Danica Lee had that when Season 1 filmed in 2005.

    Multiple Media 
  • During his time on MacGyver (1985), the late, great supporting actor Dana Elcar's slow descent into total blindness due to glaucoma was written into the show as a part of his character's life. But even after Elcar went completely blind, he still played a lot of sighted characters, because he was just that good an actor.
  • In addition to the already mentioned Marlee Matlin and Deanne Bray, Soshannah Stern is one of Hollywood's go-to people when a production features a deaf woman (although her deafness is often just a character trait and not the whole point of her being there — she has played a hearing person at least once, in the TV movie Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story).
    • In fact, the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie Sweet Nothing In My Ear brought all three of these actresses together. The plot was about whether Matlin's character's deaf son (played by another deaf actor, Noah Valencia) would get a cochlear implant.
    • And more recently, Katie Leclerc can be added to the list (she's worked with Marlee Matlin as well on Switched At Birth), though she's less disabled than Daphne, her character-merely hard of hearing, not deaf.
  • Alvin Law was born without arms. You may have seen him on an episode of The X-Files wherein he played a minister who... had no arms.
  • Amputees In Action is a casting agency specializing in amputee actors and stuntmen, including the actor from the Saving Private Ryan example above. In their words, "The graphic reality of our amputations translates to stunning results on-screen."
  • Actor Michael Berryman was born with Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia, a rare condition that caused him to have no hair, fingernails, or sweat glands. His distinctive appearance led to a career in horror and science fiction movies, usually playing villains, aliens, or monsters, most notably Pluto in The Hills Have Eyes (1977).
  • Similar to Berryman would be Rondo Hatton, who acquired acromegaly from being gassed in WWI, and played a number of villains with his condition.
    • Richard Kiel, best remembered for his portrayal of the James Bond villain Jaws, also built his acting career on playing the "heavy" due to his acromegaly. His disabled status was compounded by a car accident in 1992, which left him with balance problems and the need for a cane or, at the end of his life, a wheelchair.
    • André the Giant was better known as a wrestler, but he also put his acromegaly to good use in Hollywood, playing roles like the Eldritch Abomination Dagoth in Conan the Destroyer and the Gentle Giant Fezzik in The Princess Bride.
  • Javier Botet has Marfan syndrome, which has made him extremely tall and thin, with very long, thin fingers. Due to this, he's been cast in a ton of movies as super creepy monsters.
  • Peter Mayhew also had Marfan syndrome but unlike Botet, he was best known for playing one specific creature in one specific film series: Chewbacca in Star Wars.
  • Lionel Barrymore, from 1938's You Can't Take It With You onward, due to arthritis and hip injury requiring use of a wheelchair (he used crutches in You Can't Take It With You).
  • The U.S. military uses real amputee actors to play wounded soldiers in training simulations, to accustom trainees to the shock of dealing with limb-loss casualties.
  • Actor Don Stroud had his face mutilated by a mugger and then played many characters who also had mutilated faces.
  • Michael K. Williams had a large facial scar he received during a bar fight in New York City on his 25th birthday, in which he was slashed with a razor blade. The scar became his signature feature and resulted in offers to perform as a thug in music videos, and ultimately landed him the role of Omar in The Wire.
  • When he was younger, the late Richard Lynch suffered 3rd-degree burns over nearly 80% of his body, including much of his face. He made a career playing villains in both movies and TV, most of whom turned to villainy after being intensely burned in a fire. According to Lynch, putting his scars on display helped him get over the stigma of carrying them.
  • Characters with Down syndrome are almost always played by actors with Down syndrome due to the characteristic facial features of the syndrome, which are hard to fake.
  • Characters with dwarfism are also usually played by little people like Peter Dinklage and Warwick Davis; one notable and downright bizarre exception is Tiny Tiptoes (see the Film section above), although even there it's the exception, as most of the character are played by real little people.