Since Aristotle, characters with disabilities have appeared in western drama and impairment has long been used in fiction
as a metaphor for mortality, evil, pity – the human condition. However, few of the writers have been disabled themselves, and although I don't believe you have to experience something in order to write about it (I'm a female playwright who writes male characters), a selection that favours books written by non-disabled writers misses far too much.
Many depictions of disabled characters are outdated, incorrect, and far from the reality of living with a physical, sensory, or intellectual impairment. They are invariably rooted in social norms, defining (and often devaluing) the individual according to their medical diagnosis. Apart from the frustration of such limiting characterisation, and inaccuracies being peddled as truth, there is another, more sinister trend – the rising incidence of disability hate crime. Disabled investigative journalist Katherine Quarmby's eye-opening Scapegoat: Why We are Failing Disabled People
is a timely study of the root causes of violent crime against people who are "different", a sobering wake-up to western society's ingrained prejudices and our limited definition of what is "normal".