Cartoons with disabled characters gets a thumbs up from parents & disability rights groups
Cartoon makers, who have understood the need for inclusion, are introducing characters with disabilities in their cartoons. Mandy Mouse in Peppa Pig, Julia in Sesame Street and AJ Gadgets in Hero Elementary are a few of them to begin with which have receieved a lot of hype in recent time. Parents and experts say that this is great initiative. But inclusion must not be merely confined to representational characters on cartoons. Instead, the child must be exposed to people with disabilities for real inclusion to happen.
Five-year-old Tanvi loves to watch cartoons, just like any other kid of her age. But her favorite cartoon character these days is Mandy Mouse who appears in the show ‘Peppa Pig’. Mandy Mouse is a wheelchair user. So though Tanvi doesn’t know what exactly it means, she finds Mandy unique and interesting. Her mother Dr Devika Kumar, who found out Tanvi’s keenness about Mandy, was quick to make her daughter aware about what using a wheelchair means. Like Tanvi, there are thousands of kids who watch Mandy Mouse and finds the character unique. Representation of people with disabilities are a great way to begin teaching about inclusion at a young age. But parents must also ensure that the child is made aware of what disabilities are. More cartoons are now showing disabled characters, a trend that must be appreciated.
Need for inclusive cartoon characters
Two years back, popular American TV series ‘Sesame Street’ introduced a character named Julia who was under the autism spectrum disorder. They were amongst the first to introduce a disabled character to cartoons. Soon, the show HERO ELEMENTARY introduced AJ Gadgets, a kid with a range of cool gadgets who is on the high functioning end of autism spectrum. And then there is Mandy Mouse from Peppa Pig, a wheelchair user. Peppa Pig, one of the most popular cartoons amongst kids in India has definitely got it right!
Dr Devika Kumar says, “My daughter never asked me why Mandy Mouse is on a wheelchair. She had already accepted the character’s uniqueness. So when I asked her why her favorite character is on a wheelchair, all that she told me was Mandy is different and also great fun just like the other characters. Children clearly do not differentiate between a disabled and non-disabled person”, she says.
As far as Dr Devika is concerned, she wants to teach inclusion to her child from a young age. “I’am glad that cartoons like Peppa Pig have been instrumental in teaching inclusion. I told my daughter that all characters are different, yet strong and unique in their own ways. She understands it”, says Dr Devika.
Mothers like her are hoping that more cartoon makers take such bold steps.
The simplicity of introduction of the Mandy Mouse has won hearts of experts from the disability space as well.
Jo Chopra McGowan, Co-founder, Latika Roy Foundation in Uttarakhand says, “I love the way Mandy Mouse is brought in, so naturally, with no major build up or announcement. It seems so natural, so right. And this is how children with disabilities need to treated. They are already there and they don’t have to be introduced”.
Seema Lal, Co-founder, TogetherWeCan, a parent support group says, “Introduction of characters with disabilities in cartoon and books is a good thing. But it also depends on how much real life exposure the child gets with disabled people. Otherwise, it merely becomes representations. Kids are born inclusive. They do not see their friends as disabled or not. It is the education and society that teaches them about competition and who can or cannot do things”.
Introduction to inclusive cartoon characters is a great way to begin with. Shows like Peppa Pig are available in kids channels meanwhile parents can browse for other inclusive cartoon shows on YouTube and online platforms.
- Upcoming movie ‘Come Play’ has a lead character with autism, a welcoming trend say members of Indian film industry
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