The TV writer behind “Awkward” and “Will & Grace” is bringing his story of cerebral palsy (CP) to Netflix in the new series “Special.” Ryan O’Connell is retelling his challenging path to self-acceptance with humor.
Hiding His CP Diagnosis
As in real life, O’Connell hid his cerebral palsy diagnosis from friends and co-workers. While he shared the fact he’s gay with family and friends when he was 17, revealing he had CP took longer. He was 27 when he finally shared it to friends and co-workers.
In “Special”, Ryan navigates entering the gay dating scene as he begins his new blogger job — all while hiding his CP diagnosis. Instead of sharing his CP, he explains his limp as an injury from a car accident.
During the eight 15-minute episodes, Ryan learns to love himself as he is.
Much Needed Disability Representation
TV today features only 18 characters with a disability, which equates to just 2% representation, according to GLAAD. Aside from the poor amount of representation, more than 95% of characters with a disability are played by actors who do not have one.
“Special” offers much-needed visibility into living life … while just happening to have a disability. As the show increases its following, the hope is the demand for more shows representing disabilities will also increase.