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Physical Disability in Media

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This is an index for works that focus on disabilities. One-shots or disabled guest characters are too numerous, so this index is for works that have a substantive focus on physical disability. No examples that include Throwing Off the Disability please, as this is about the specific experience of being (and staying) disabled.

More specific indexes are Deafness In Media, Autism in Media, and Blindness in Media, so those examples go there, please.

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This index is only for physically disabled characters; see The Mentally Disturbed or Ambiguous Disorder for portrayals of mental illness in fiction.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The Killing Joke: Barbara is paralyzed and will remain so for several years after being shot by the Joker.

    Film — Animated 
  • The How to Train Your Dragon series features Hiccup as the protagonist, who has a prosthetic leg to match the wing prosthetic on his dragon, Toothless.
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    Film — Live-Action 
  • Amélie: Raymond Dufayel, nicknamed "the glass man" by his neighbors, has brittle-bone disease, and never leaves his flat where all the furniture is padded.
  • The Best Years of Our Lives: Homer lost both hands when his plane was shot down.
  • A Different Approach
  • The Big Lebowski: The title character is a paraplegic billionaire, although Walter thinks he's faking his disability. He isn't.
  • Breaking the Waves: Jan is paralyzed from the neck down in an accident.
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: Jean Dominique has locked-in syndrome after a stroke.
  • Dont Worry He Wont Get Far On Foot: Based on the memoir of the cartoonist John Callahan, who became quadriplegic in a car accident.
  • Forrest Gump: Lt. Dan Taylor loses both legs in Vietnam.
  • Freaks: The titular cast of sideshow performers includes a character with caudal regression syndrome, a character without arms, a character born without a lower body, and conjoined twins; these characters were played by actors who actually had these conditions in real life.
  • Friday the 13th Part 2: Mark is in a wheelchair.
  • I Know Who Killed Me: Dakota loses her arm and leg to a mysterious attack which turns out to have been from her psychic link with her previously-unknown kidnapped twin sister that she gets replaced with prosthetics.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road: Furiosa is missing an arm, while Immortan Joe is severely disabled (although it's never explained how).
  • Margarita with a Straw: The protagonist has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.
  • Me Before You: Will is paralyzed in a skiing accident.
  • My Left Foot: Christy Brown has cerebral palsy.
  • Rory O'Shea Was Here: Michael has cerebral palsy, and Rory is also in a wheelchair.
  • Run: Chloe has been in a wheelchair since she was young as a result of Diane poisoning her.
  • Rust And Bone: A French romance film about a man meeting a woman whose legs have been amputated after a workplace accident at a marine park.
  • The Sessions: Max was incapacitated since having polio as a child. He spends a lot of time living in an iron lung.
  • Skyward (made for TV): Paraplegic teenager Julie Ward (played by young paraplegic actress Suzy Gilstrap) wants to become a pilot. With the help of flight instructor Billie Dupree (Bette Davis) and mechanic Koup Trenton (Howard Hessemann), she succeeds.
  • Soul Surfer: Bethany loses her arm in a shark attack.
  • Star Wars:
    • Anakin Skywalker loses his right arm during a lightsaber duel with Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones, acquiring a cybernetic arm afterwards, and loses his left arm and both legs while dueling Obi-Wan Kenobi in Revenge of the Sith, which along with suffering severe burns on Mustafar necessitates additional cybernetic limbs and a special life-support armor as he becomes Darth Vader.
    • Anakin's son, Luke, loses his right hand while dueling Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, replacing it with a prosthetic afterwards.
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Franklin is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair.
  • The Theory of Everything: A biopic of Stephen Hawking, who was mostly incapacitated with ALS and used a wheelchair.
  • El Topo: As a result of their inbreeding, some of the cave people are missing limbs.
  • Unbreakable: Elijah Price has osteogenesis imperfecta (severe brittle bone disease) and uses a wheelchair as a result.

    Literature 
  • All The Rage: Romy never explicitly says what happened, but her beloved stepfather Todd suffers from constant back and leg problems after getting in a car accident as a teenager.
  • Born on the Fourth of July (and the film based on the book): Ron Kovic comes back from Vietnam paralyzed from the waist down.
  • Cormoran Strike Novels: Cormoran lost a leg in Afghanistan and wears a prosthesis.
  • Dawnshard: One of the main characters is Rysn, who is paralyzed from the waist down. And a large part of the novella is devoted to her dealing with her disability, trying to improve her life, being in touch with other, similarly disabled people in other places.
  • Defying Doomsday and its followup Rebuilding Tomorrow are anthologies about disabled and chronically ill protagonists in post-apocalyptic scenarios.
  • The Final Girl Support Group: One of the other final girls is Julia, who is quadriplegic since she pushed her would-be killer out of a window.
  • Freak the Mighty: Freak, one of the main characters, wears braces on his legs and uses crutches to walk.
  • Handle with Care is about a young girl with dehabilitating osteogenesis imperfecta.
  • Misery: Paul spends most of the book and film in a terrible state because of his smashed-up legs. Annie then cuts off one of his feet (or, in the book, she smashes it so badly that it needs to be amputated).
  • Moby-Dick: Captain Ahab lost his leg to the titular whale.
  • The Pinballs: Harvey is disabled after his drunk driver father ran over both his legs.
  • Small Steps: Ginny, a major supporting character and the protagonist's neighbor, is a girl with cerebral palsy.
  • Treasure Island: Long John Silver, the main antagonist, is missing a leg.
  • Warrior Cats: There are several sub-plots in which major supporting characters are gravely injured and must learn how to deal with their new disability, such as Cinderpelt whose leg is crippled badly enough that she can't become a warrior, Brightheart who loses an eye and an ear, and Briarlight whose hindlegs are permanently paralyzed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 4400: The character of Mildred has a hand deformity, as does her actor Autumn Best.
  • Bones: The last two seasons, 11 and 12, have regular character Jack Hodgins deal with being left paralyzed and struggling to accept the changes to his life.
  • Breaking Bad: Walt Jr./Flynn has cerebral palsy; Hector has locked-in syndrome; Hank is disabled in an explosion. Although he recovers to an extent, he's never back to "normal" before his death.
  • CSI has Doc Robbins, a double amputee regular character who's a medical examiner. He uses a lofstrand crutch. One A Day in the Limelight episode actually touches on his daily life a bit.
  • Degrassi: The Next Generation: Jimmy is paralyzed in a school shooting in Season 4, and is shown using a wheelchair until Drake left the show. His girlfriend, Trina, is also paralyzed after a fall. Margaret Matlin has multiple sclerosis, and was portrayed by Spirit Synott, an actor with multiple sclerosis in season 11.
  • Desperate Housewives: Orson was paralyzed in the plane crash, which led to him becoming an Evil Cripple.
  • Doctor Who: Recurring villain Davros lost the lower half of his body in the Kaled-Thal war and consequently uses a motorized wheelchair to move about.
  • ER: Kerry Weaver uses a cane and drags her foot. Ray has both his legs amputated. Paul Nathan has Parkinson's.
  • Friday Night Lights: In the pilot, Jason is paralyzed in a football game. He leaves in Season 3 to work in New York.
  • Glee: New Directions student Artie Abrams uses a wheelchair.
  • House: Dr House walks with a severe limp and a cane after being seriously injured in an accident.
  • Highlander Joe Dawson is a double amputee since the Vietnam War. He uses a cane to walk, and one prominent plot where characters are tempted by a demon has Joe tempted with restoring his legs. Another has his fear over revealing his issues to a high school friend.
  • If You See God, Tell Him: Godfrey Spry uses an electric wheelchair following an accident where he took a car out for a test drive alongside the top of a cliff.
  • Ironside (1967). The title character's lower body was paralyzed after he was shot by a sniper. He moves around using a wheelchair.
  • Jerk: Starring a protagonist who has cerebral palsy.
  • The Red Line: Features a character who was paralyzed in a shooting.
  • Special: Starring a protagonist who has mild cerebral palsy.
  • Speechless: A protagonist with cerebral palsy.
  • Strike (2017): As an adaptation of the novels, Strike is still missing a leg.
  • Years and Years: Rosie has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair.

    Theatre 
  • Cost of Living: A quadriplegic character and a character with cerebral palsy.
  • Peter Pan (1904) (and all its adaptations): Captain Hook has a hook hand after Peter cut it off.

    Video Games 
  • Backyard Sports: Kenny Kawaguchi is a boy in a wheelchair.
  • Mass Effect: A number of notable main characters are physically disabled. Joker has Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bone syndrome), Tali — and her entire species — is immunocompromised, Thane has a chronic lung disease that's slowly killing him, and Kaidan had chronic migraines.
  • Mortal Kombat: Jackson "Jax" Briggs has a pair of prosthetic arms.
  • Sly Cooper: Bentley utilizes a wheelchair after getting paralyzed at the end of the second game and remains that way afterward.
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    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Yang Xiao Long uses a prosthetic arm from Volume 4 onward after losing it in a fight.

    Webcomics 
  • Kiwi Blitz: The protagonist has a prosthetic leg.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • DuckTales (2017): Della Duck has a prosthetic leg in place of one she had to amputate.
  • Family Guy: Quahog police officer Joe Swanson uses a wheelchair.
  • John Callahan's Quads!: The protagonist is quadriplegic and the main cast includes other physically disabled characters; the show's creator was himself rendered quadriplegic in an accident and used the show as a way of expressing his own thoughts on being physically disabled.
  • Pelswick: Starring a protagonist who uses a wheelchair; created by the same guy as John Callahan's Quads! for much the same reason.
  • South Park: Timmy uses a motorized wheelchair, while Jimmy walks with crutches.

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