SPOILER ALERT! On Tuesday night one of the biggest shows on TV added a supporting character who is blind. Blake Stadnik now plays Jack Damon on This Is Us, the son of two of the main characters. In 2016 the show became an instant sensation. The show tackles issues like obesity, alcoholism, racism, and loss in a raw and relatable way.
The addition of Jack’s character (played by Blake Stadnik, who is legally blind) to the This Is Us cast has the potential to promote powerful change. Not only did NBC hire an actor who is blind, they’ve also stepped outside many common stereotypes in his portrayal. In a world where people think blindness is the end of independence, the show paints a much more accurate picture. Jack is shown as an adult who is successful, and lives independently. The show, which is known for taking place along multiple timelines, also shows Jack as a baby. When Jack’s parents get the diagnosis, his mother says “my son Is going to live a life without limits.”
This is how blindness should be shown in the media. “It’s always exciting to have a person who is blind portrayed in realistic settings instead of something that is artificial, and for that we applaud NBC,” says Dave Wilkinson an employee at APH. “Like many other things in life, blindness is something that just is. It doesn’t have to be the end, and often isn’t. It’s refreshing to see a working blind person on television showing that this diagnosis may be an obstacle but that’s all it has to be.”
While the premier for this season of This Is Us was exciting, APH will watch closely in hopes that they will continue to use their voice to show that being blind does not mean you can’t live an independent and fulfilling life.
Thanks, But Please Do Better
When This Is Us first premiered it was the talk around most water coolers. If you hadn’t watched it, you were running to the app to catch up – that’s if you are sighted. When the show premiered there were no audio descriptions.
“Enough happens on This Is Us that without audio description it is impossible to keep up. When the program came out, I felt like I was missing out on something that was culturally significant,” explains Dave. “This is a prime example of why audio description is needed to watch media alone if you are blind.”
This Is Us is now listed on the American Council of the Blind’s (ACB) website as audio described, but it appears season one still doesn’t have descriptions.
“I’m glad NBC has started adding audio description to the show, but it sure would be nice to be able to go back to the binge watch the show from the beginning. This is a perfect example of why accessibility needs to be taken into consideration from the beginning. If audio descriptions were included from day one, I would have been able to follow the shows complex storyline.
If you’d like to know what shows have audio descriptions, ACB keeps an updated list here: https://acb.org/adp/tvschedule.html
What Others are Saying
If you search for Blake Stadnik on Twitter you’ll quickly find the disability community is buzzing about his role on the show. Here’s what others are saying:
#ThisIsUs welcomes Blake Stadnik, a disabled actor who plays a disabled character on the show.
Pleased that in this episode alone, we met a relatable, supportive & supported and loving & loved man, storylines that we don’t see enough when talking about disabled characters 🙌🏼. pic.twitter.com/ybw0ghTXZd
— Marina Carlos (@MarinaCpom) September 25, 2019
Tomorrow morning people are going to be buzzing about #BlakeStadnik and his performance on @NBCThisisUs. Brilliant actor an proof that you CAN cast visually impaired actors. Representation is SO important. Thank you @Dan_Fogelman! #ThisIsUs
— Chanda Brandt (@ChandaBrandt) September 25, 2019
Congrats to #ThisIsUs for not cripping up and actually casting a disabled actor!
How ‘This Is Us’ Discovered Blake Stadnik, the Blind Actor Who Plays Jack | Entertainment Tonight https://t.co/RPxKM80M22
— Elise ♿️ (@elisability) September 25, 2019