The ABC sitcom Speechless was renewed for a third season and premiered on October 5, 2018. The show centers on a family with three children. The eldest, JJ, has cerebral palsy which leaves him nonverbal, and he uses an electric wheelchair to get around. The middle child, Ray, is a brainiac who loves to learn. The youngest daughter, Dylan, is an athlete. One of the reasons this show resonates with me is the fact that the show is accurate with its depictions of cerebral palsy and living with a disability in general. The mother in the show is her son’s greatest advocate when it comes to making sure he receives the appropriate services that he needs in order to be as successful as he can be. Growing up, my parents were also my greatest advocates in school, and they later helped me learn self-advocacy skills. The actor who portrays JJ, 20-year-old Micah Fowler, also has cerebral palsy, though to a lesser degree than his character. This is a breakthrough on mainstream television. Very rarely, do those with disabilities get the chance to portray themselves on TV or in a movie. Usually, the actor or actress is able-bodied and is simply acting when he or she depicts disability.
The sitcom also shows the sometimes unfortunate realities of living with a physical disability, like needing some assistance with personal care tasks such as using the restroom, or taking a shower, or the inaccessibility of public places. The show also depicts other people’s perceptions of those who are physically disabled. In a season two episode, JJ is used as a source of inspiration by a classmate who barely knows him. The written piece depicts JJ as a big inspiration for simply living his life, and the principal of the high school calls JJ and Donald (the student who wrote the piece) friends. This scenario is something I encountered quite a few times when I was in school. Adults would assume that any time I was seen conversing or socializing with a peer I was their close friend.
Speechless is a wonderful show. It tackles tough issues that come with having a disability with humor, and wit. I highly recommend it.