Diversity and Inclusion of the Disabled

By Mary Simon

In a recent interview, Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin reminds us that while diversity is a "beautiful, wonderful thing," people with disabilities are often not considered part of the diversity mandate. The titles on this list examine the various portrayals of deaf, blind, and mute individuals.

  • Children of a Lesser God

    2000 by Randa Haines

    A teacher of a deaf pupil tries to help her cope and excel, eventually falling in love with her. William Hurt and Marlee Matlin's powerful performances transform the viewer. We experience the world of the deaf and see how they overcome communication barriers. The romantic angle complicates and enhances their relationship.

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  • Black

    2005 by Sanjay Bhansali

    This 2005 film, through a series of flashbacks, depicts the life of a young deaf and blind girl living in India and her relationship with her teacher. The film derives inspiration from the story of Helen Keller. (See entry below). How the teacher communicates with his student is creative and amazing. Poignant and moving.

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  • All the Light We Cannot See : A Novel

    2014 by Anthony Doerr

    During WWII the lives of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy collide as they try to survive the physical and emotional turbulence of the war. The novel won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for its elegant and evocative prose.

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  • Not If I See You First

    2015 by Eric Lindstrom

    The story of a 16-year-old coed with a fierce tongue and an attitude to match, who has been deeply hurt by a boyfriend from 8th grade. Our protagonist (who happens to be an orphan and blind) does not cope well when the ex-boyfriend transfers to her school. It is the dimension that her blindness adds to both everyday and atypical teen angst which captured my heart.

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  • Girl, Stolen

    2010 by April Henry

    This fast-paced, tense and exciting YA story of a car-jacking provides plenty of suspense. The main character's—a young, blind, girl from a wealthy family—ability to overcome the ensuing challenges of the hostage takers, will make you cheer.

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  • The Miracle Worker

    2001 by Arthur Penn

    Originally released as a motion picture in 1962, this dramatization provides insight into the struggles of the deaf, blind, and mute student Helen Keller as well as her inspiring teacher, Annie Sullivan. Their outstanding performances earned Anne Bancroft Best Actress and Patty Duke Best Actress in a Supporting Role recognition at the 1963 Academy Awards.

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  • The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

    2008 by Robert Miller

    A film adaptation of the best-selling book by Carson McCullers (1940) made in 1968, starring Alan Arkin, Sondra Locke, and Cicely Tyson. The story of events surrounding two friends, both deaf mutes, living in a small mill town in Georgia in 1930. The trials and tribulations suffered by both enhances our understanding of how difficult life with disabilities could be during that time.

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  • Painter of Silence : A Novel

    2012 by Georgina Harding

    If you want to view life in rural Romania in the 1950s through the perspective of a deaf and mute boy who communicates through pictures, Painter of Silence is your window to that world. It is also a story of a middle-class family and the effects that World War II and Stalin's brutal communist regime had on them and their community.

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  • Wonderstruck (dvd)

    2018 by Oakes Fegley

    Look for a bold performance in this film adaptation of Brian Selznick’s best-selling book, which he adapted for the screen. Millicent Simmonds stars in Wonderstruck: she’s the rare deaf actress to play a deaf character in a major film.

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  • Baby Driver

    2017 by Edgar Wright

    Often films with deaf involvement put the hearing point of view front and center. In Baby Driver, the deaf actor and comedian CJ Jones captures amazing on-air time, but critics pointed out that the film editing cut into his signed lines so much, audiences couldn’t see his signing.

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