After dislodging “The Story” from my memories last year, I’ve been busy! I’m spending most of my “down time” learning how to tell this story: analyzing good storytelling, critiquing bad storytelling, writing almost daily, and anything to improve my writing toolbox. After realizing that the main characters would have physical impairments, I realized I had to educate myself on how to “do it right,” so let’s consider: under-representation, invisibility, “hiding impairments,” and their world’s prosthetics.
Spoiler Warning Scale: Minor (world-building, rant)
Unfortunately, the website highlights just how under-represented impaired characters are in popular culture. That could be indicative of previous generations of storytellers. I am an able-bodied person that grew up in the early 90s. In my compulsory education, I had classes with only one person requiring a wheelchair, and he was only at our school briefly. Otherwise, accessibility wasn’t much of an active consideration. It took a while before anyone even realized I needed glasses.
Without glasses, my vision is blurry.
Even something as easy as determining that someone in compulsory school needed glasses took too long, and I only need a “just enough to need it” prescription. Perhaps because of that, shy of my driver’s license stating my “corrective vision” restriction, I led a life functionally naïve toward how some live their lives until I began researching for “The Story.” That’s my “angle:” if characters have impairments, they’re barely considered, if they’re considered at all.
Casually researching over this past year, I’ve become disinterested in fiction because most stories portray either a sense of making the impairment “repaired” and therefore invisible, or using the impairment as a plot contrivance. What if characters with impairments were just part of the crew? What if characters with diverse capabilities were considered the same as racially diverse characters? Nothing to call them out specifically and any impairments were completely integrated into the crew’s consideration?
What if they don’t need to hide their impairments?
Returning to “The Story,” John (shown with the “Freestyle” shirt) grew up in poor families, so even if they cared, they wouldn’t be able to afford any prosthetics to help him “appear normal.” His mentor Mr. Ebersole taught him manners and provided the seeds of accepting his appearance. By the time he begins living with Trishna on her family’s farm, after “The Scene,” he might reject cosmetic surgery or any prosthetics to increase physical functions.
Trishna, shown with an “Astronaut” shirt, has mobility aides.
Otherwise, she rejected an aesthetic sock for her impaired foot. Even with corrective surgery, their world doesn’t have full-bodied prosthetics available, so she can’t walk more than absolutely necessary. That includes a possible scene, shown below, where she stands to try to stop John from getting into a fight with some drunk that was making fun of her by suggesting she should have his “peg leg.” Maybe that scene is a freshman year Halloween party?
More research required… “The Story” should have respectful representation.