TV Series Featuring Characters or Performers With Disabilities

A big part of raising awareness and acceptance for people with disabilities is making their stories part of popular culture. Check out our list of TV series that have had regularly featured characters or performers with special needs. Be sure to check out reviews before watching because they aren't all kid-friendly.


Show: Alphas
Network: SyFy
On the Air: 2011-2012
Character of Interest: Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright), a young man with autism whose abilities as a "human antenna" make him valuable to a crime-fighting team of people with extraordinary abilities.

The Big Bang Theory

Show: The Big Bang Theory
Network: CBS
On the Air: 2007-2019
Character of Interest: Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), a theoretical physicist and all-around quirky guy who talks about and displays many symptoms of Asperger syndrome.


Show: Bones
Network: FOX
On the Air: 2005-2017
Character of Interest: Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan (Emily Deschanel), a forensic anthropologist who looks to a lot of viewers like a person with Asperger syndrome.

Breaking Bad

Show: Breaking Bad
Network: AMC
On the Air: 2008-2013
Character of Interest: Walter White, Jr. (RJ Mitte), son of the chemistry teacher turned meth maker, who, like the actor who plays him, has ​cerebral palsy.​

The Bridge

Show: The Bridge
Network: FX
On the Air: 2013-2014
Character of Interest: Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), an El Paso police detective with Asperger syndrome.

Covert Affairs

Show: Covert Affairs
Network: USA
On the Air: 2010-2014
Character of Interest: Auggie Anderson (Christopher Gorham), a blind CIA analyst who's a tech whiz, a sidekick for the newbie agent played by Piper Perabo, and a chick magnet.


Show: Glee
Network: Fox
On the Air: 2009-2015
Characters of Interest: Artie Abrams (Kevin McHale), a glee-club member who uses a wheelchair; Becky Jackson (Lauren Potter), a cheerleader with Down syndrome.

Grey's Anatomy

Show: Grey's Anatomy
Network: ABC
On the Air: 2005-
Character of Interest: Dr. Virginia Dixon (Mary McDonnell), a cardiac surgeon with Asperger syndrome who appeared in several episodes of the series' sixth season.

King and Maxwell

Show: King and Maxwell
Network: TNT
On the Air: 2013
Character of Interest: Edgar Roy (Ryan Hurst), described on the show's site as "a high-functioning autistic savant who specializes in patterns and numerical sequences."


Show: Legit
Network: FX
On the Air: 2013-2014
Character of Interest: Billy Nugent (DJ Qualls), a man with severe muscular dystrophy sprung from a nursing home by a trying-to-do-good friend.

Life Goes On

Show: Life Goes On
Network: ABC
On the Air: 1989-1993
Character of Interest: Corky Thatcher (Chris Burke), a high-school student with Down syndrome and a member of the family the series focused on.

The Middle

Show: The Middle
Network: ABC
On the Air: 2009-2018
Character of Interest: Brick (Atticus Shaffer), youngest child of the Heck family, a quirky little fellow whose odd ways and habit of repeating things in a whisper has some viewers wondering if he's on the autism spectrum. Whether the character is or not, the show remains of special-needs interest for Shaffer, who has osteogenesis imperfecta.

Modern Family

Show: Modern Family
Network: ABC
On the Air: 2009-
Actor of Interest: Sarah Hyland, who plays Haley Dunphy, revealed in May 2012 that she was diagnosed with kidney dysplasia at age 9 and received a kidney transplant from her father in April 2012, at age 21.


Show: Parenthood
Network: NBC
On the Air: 2010- 2015
Character of Interest: Max Braverman (Max Burkholder), a member of the youngest generation of the sprawling Braverman clan and, as of the show's first episode, a child diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.

The Secret Life of the American Teenager

Show: The Secret Life of the American Teenager
Network: ABC Family
On the Air: 2008-2013
Special-Needs Connection: Tom Bowman (Luke Zimmerman), a young man with Down syndrome who's more level-headed than most of the show's sex-obsessed characters.

St. Elsewhere

Show: St. Elsewhere
Network: NBC
On the Air: 1982-1988
Special-Needs Connection: Tommy Westphall (Chad Allen), the autistic son of hospital honcho Dr. Donald Westphall, who in the show's last episode is apparently revealed to have dreamed up the entire series.

Switched at Birth

Show: Switched at Birth
Network: ABC Family
On the Air: 2011- 2017
Character of Interest: Daphne Vasquez (Katie Leclerc), a hearing-impaired teenager who finds out she went home with the wrong family as an infant. The show features other hearing-impaired characters and did one episode entirely in American Sign Language (ASL).

The West Wing

Show: The West Wing
Network: NBC
On the Air: 1999-2006
Character of Interest: Joey Lucas (Marlee Matlin), a pollster whose deafness was used to comedic (though never at her expense) and dramatic effect, but was never the sum of her character.

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Article Sources

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  3. National Institute of Childhood Health and Human Development. Cerebral Palsy. Updated December 1, 2016.

  4. National Eye Institute. Blindness Data and Statistics. Updated July 2019.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts about Down Syndrome. Updated November 1, 2018.

  6. Child Health and Human Development. Muscular Dystrophy. December 1, 1016.

  7. Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~ National Resource Center. Osteogenesis Imperfecta Overview. Updated December 2015.

  8. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Kidney Dysplasia. Updated July 2015.

  9. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. American Sign Language. Updated May 8, 2019.

  10. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Hearing, Ear Infections, and Deafness.