Gleeks Unite!

Mar 15, 2011
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I recently had the opportunity to watch half an episode of Glee, in which Artie, the student with paraplegia, used his Colours wheelchair to get around the halls of the high school.  Since I wasn’t too interested in the actual story – I started to watch Artie and became quickly bothered by the push handles on the back of his chair.  Why were Artie’s friends pushing him around in his chair?  I also noticed that Artie’s chair seemed really big for his body and that he sits crooked in it.  According to the show, Artie has been in his wheelchair since the age of 8 as the result of a car accident and for a person who has been in a chair for at least 8 years his skill set is not where it should be.

Many people in the disabled community have criticized show producers for not using an actor with a disability for the part of Artie in Glee.  Why use an able bodied actor to portray a character with a spinal cord injury?  My question for the producers, is why doesn’t Artie have not only a better wheelchair, but also better wheelchair skills for someone who has been in a chair for 8 years?  Why isn’t Artie’s chair flashy or at least really light weight and fitted to his frame?  Why can’t Artie do wheelies and dance maneuvers in his chair?  The answer of course is that Artie is supposed to be geeky or dorky and not smooth in any of the aforementioned ways.  Artie is the geek with an amazing voice that makes all of his female classmates stop and listen.

I have to give kudos to the producers of Glee, because in addition to writing a story that includes a character with a spinal cord injury they have incorporated other characters with disabilities into their story lines including a person who is bed ridden (high level quadriplegic) with an SCI and two other female actors who have Down’s Syndrome.  Glee is hiring actors with disabilities and increasing the awareness of their target audience at the same time!  I am impressed that a show as popular as Glee is doing its part to raise the visibility level for people with disabilities.  Way to go Glee!

Author: Elizabeth



  • Caryhwing

    There are so many talented actors in chairs that could have played the role. It is unfortunate there wasn’t an effort to engage “the real thing”.