As I work on expanding the diversity of my characters, one idea keeps popping out. How do I write good disabled characters? How do I create something that isn’t a stereotype or falls into a lot of the traps that most media do when depicting characters with disabilities. Even as someone with a disability myself, I struggle with not falling into the same tropes as other people.
With that in mind, I decided to try and put together a guideline of sorts on how to write disabled characters.
Don’t Make Their Super Power Negate their Disability
This is one that I see happen pretty often. A character reveals that they have a disability but it’s ok because their super-power is an enhanced version of the part of them that is “impaired”. For example, bling characters who have their super power be an enhanced version of super-sight. They can use vibrations caused by sounds, or have a connection to the earth, in some way that lets them see what others can’t. In this way their disability becomes an “asset” rather than a burden the way mainstream society expects all disability to be.
The only time the disability is otherwise mentioned is for comedic effect: when they are asked for specifics that their ‘enhanced sight’ wouldn’t let them see. This might be words on a page, pictures on a poster, etc.
The problem with this is that it creates the perception that the only way that disabled characters can be useful is if their disability is completely negated. It plays into the idea that disabled people are on their own useless and burdens.