Animation Can be an Important Tool in Disability Awareness and Inclusion

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By Michael

Introducing Greeney!

This is the custom Bluey character I created for Harrison’s upcoming birthday to be used on the invitations, the Facebook event header, etc. (I bet you can’t remotely guess the theme!)

I’m not sharing this to boast about my own greatness but to draw attention to the feet of the character. I included Harrison’s AFOs (ankle-foot orthoses) in his Bluey character. Harrison wears his AFOs for more than 20 hours a day; they are a part of him, of who he is, and it felt wrong not to include them. (I tried the Mehta cast in one variation, but it didn’t work well for dogs that don’t usually wear clothes.)

Looking around, I’m amazed by the lack of disability representation in animation. Sure there are sprinkling here or there. At this point, everyone knows about the background Bluey character in a wheelchair, but it would be so simple to show more. Take AFOs, for example. Something as simple as adding them to a character can make a huge difference. Harrison could identify with him if Greeney were a real character because they have something in common.

Despite the vast array of disabilities, they are rarely portrayed in media.

To its benefit, Ludo, the studio behind Bluey, has done a great job of representing characters with disabilities.

Jack, one of Bluey’s schoolmates, is likely portrayed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although it is never explicitly stated, clues such as Jack’s inability to sit still in the car and his forgetfulness about his hat suggest he has this condition.

Another character, who was just recently introduced in the episode Turtleboy that has just recently made it over to the U.S. and Disney+, is a character called Dougie, who is deaf. Dougie uses Australian Sign Language (Auslan) and lip reading to communicate with his mom during the episode.

Bluey also has included disability representation with background characters, highlighting that just like in the real world, there are people with disabilities in the world of Bluey. A child in a wheelchair can be spotted in episodes The Quiet Game and Mr. Monkeyjocks.

Child in wheelchair in Bluey episode The Quiet Game

Inclusion and acceptance should be the norm, not something we must strive to achieve.

Animation can be an incredibly powerful tool to educate and inspire, helping to create a more inclusive and accepting world. It is important to recognize that people with disabilities should be seen as equal and should be represented in stories that empower and encourage respect. Not only should children be seen for who they are, but also adults–without prejudice or judgment, and not simply for their disability or the accessories that may come with it. Making a conscious effort to promote accessibility and create an environment of acceptance for all is a vital part of building a better world. Only through understanding, compassion, and acceptance can we create a truly inclusive society that values everyone for who they are.

This is Greeney. Like Harrison, he was born with Arthrogryposis. He wears AFOs on his feet, his arms hang down, his smile will light up your day, and he’s sure to get excited at the first sight of bubbles. He’s an amazing kid; you’re truly missing out if you can’t look past the differences.


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