by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, USA Today
Television has the power to change lives. From our favorite sitcoms to the evening news, polls show that television is the lens through which Americans form opinions. Indeed, TV can have a stronger impact on both viewers and this country’s laws than even education or our own families.
Consider, for example, the media’s central role in the progression of civil rights. The Cosby Show and Oprah charted new territory for race relations in our nation. For the first time, African Americans were welcomed like family members into the living rooms of white Americans.
On another front, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Will and Grace and Married with Children helped advance LGBT issues. These TV programs shifted public opinion on marriage equality so quickly that elected officials and courts have been falling over each other to change their views — and legislation — on these issues.
Unfortunately, the American public has a negative misimpression of what it’s like to have people with disabilities in the workplace, even though some of the nation’s greatest presidents and thought leaders lived with such challenges. Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, for example, were thought to have been dyslexic; President Franklin Roosevelt used a wheelchair; Albert Einstein is believed to have been on the autism spectrum; and, despite physical challenges, Stephen Hawkins is literally unlocking the secrets of the universe. But none of them had or have the power of television propelling them forward like the wind at their backs.
The New York Times
By NEIL GENZLINGER
Yes, I Can, and, What’s More, as the Star
Michael J. Fox and Others Play TV Heroes With Disabilities
With our natural tendency to want to feel as if we’re part of something groundbreaking, it’s easy to forget that characters with disabilities have been turning up on television for a long time. That is underscored this season with a new version of “Ironside,” a series about a detective who uses a wheelchair, which arrives on NBC on Oct. 2. The original “Ironside,” starring Raymond Burr, made its debut almost half a century ago, in 1967.
Since then, television has brought us blind investigators (“Longstreet” in 1971, “Blind Justice,” in 2005) and a so-called defective detective with obsessive-compulsive disorder (“Monk” in 2002), not to mention a paralyzed convict (Augustus Hill on “Oz” in 1997). Mary Ingalls lost her sight in “Little House on the Prairie” back in 1978. Before it was a Broadway hit or an acclaimed film, “The Miracle Worker” was a teleplay, on “Playhouse 90” in 1957.
Michael J. Fox left prime-time television more than a decade ago to focus on his battle with Parkinson’s disease. Now he’s back, with the help of drugs that keep his own shaking from the illness mostly under control.
Fox, 51, will star in “The Michael J. Fox Show,” a comedy on Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s NBC about a news anchor who returns to work after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a condition that causes nerve cells to misfire, leaving patients unable to control their movements.