If you’ve been to any of the Walt Disney World Parks, then you know how accommodating they are to children with disabilities, including wheelchair rentals, service animals, assistive listening systems, braille guidebooks, sign language interpretation, video captioning, break areas for guests who become overwhelmed and many more. But why isn’t this reflected in their characters and movies
While it is a step forward that Disney now has princesses representing multiple cultural backgrounds and ethnicities, if they really want to be inclusive and representative of all children they need to branch out even further.
According to the United States Census, about 20 percent of the population has some sort of disability, whether physical or mental. That’s a large portion of people that are underrepresented in television and Hollywood.
More than 3.5 million Americans live with autism spectrum disorder. Girls and boys with autism, down syndrome and both physical and mental needs should feel represented as well.
I personally think it should be a given that all people feel represented and have someone to look up to that they can relate to, so having characters with disabilities lets people know their struggles aren’t theirs alone.
And no, there’s nothing wrong with children dressing up as whatever princess they love no matter their skin color, disabilities or any differences, but these girls (and boys) should have someone to look up to. Someone to empower them and show them that they are real-life princesses and princes just like any other child.
They provide encouragement to young girls, giving them the confidence to chase after their dreams and teaching them how to live in service to others. These girls grow up worshiping Disney princesses, wanting to live just like them. I know I used to walk around in my Belle dress every single day, because I saw a part of myself in her.
These movies and stories become role models for children and adults alike, always making sure to portray their hero or heroine in kindness, beauty and grace as they overcome their problems and live “happily ever after.”
Our society has a tendency to treat others who don’t look or think the same as outcasts, but Disney has the power to change those standards simply by creating a protagonist outside the status quo.
Having a princess with a disability would not only encourage those with disabilities that they are not alone but it would help able-bodied children have a glimpse into the life of those with a disability, possibly leading to more open-minded and accepting environments in schools and in the community.