I am an actress and I happen to have a learning disability. I had a young employee in a supermarket come up to me the other day. He has a learning disability. He said; "Sarah you were brilliant yesterday, but you are not doing us any favours, your characters are always helpless and sad. Please play a character with a job, a life and giggles."
What could I say; I don't rule the world. But I agree. I think the media needs to change. I think it needs to do more to include people with a learning disability. I think it needs to stop seeing the disability and begin to see people.
In the beginning of my career the stage managers and assistant directors were horrified when they saw me. How were they going to keep to a tight schedule with a central character played by someone with Downs Syndrome? But now - they want to work with me again.
What happens is I keep on schedule, I do good work - And I earn respect.
I know this - because they feel - they have to tell me that at first they were worried but now they know not to be.
Sorry if I am blowing my own trumpet but to change things I must talk about what I know. About my own experience. However my experience is probably relevant to other industries as only 6% of people with a learning disability are actually in paid employment.
I have been really lucky to work with some good people throughout my career who amazingly want to work with me again. Lisa Evans wrote my first TV show She then got commissioned to write my first professional play Once We Were Mothers. This was shown at a 800 seater theatre, in the round - A challenge. But the play was a success and a few years later, it got another production at the Orange Tree Richmond, with me attached. The writer trusts me - I earn these talented people's trust.
I am lucky as the press seem to like me as well. There are 1.4million people - with a learning disability. I think some journalists know that many more people with a learning disability should be involved with the media. I think we should have more positive representation in drama and print.
On stage I have played complex characters, who are sometimes happy and successful. TV is inclined to only have stories about the problems disability brings. The character is a "Disability" not a "woman". However, some writers who work with me go onto writing more complex characters. Thanks Heidi Thomas for my character in Call the Midwife - and Lisa Evans.
May I suggest to TV bosses - think positive and have faith in your writers. My American dad says"some of the best ideas come from left field". I think that means - don't be conservative, let's challenge creative people to knock down existing stereotypes that appear on tv and in films. You like winners! You create winners by thinking differently
I would like to see more small parts played by people with learning disability.
Where the character has nothing to do with disability, just normal people living there life like anyone else. Perhaps the person in the newsagent our hero chats to every day. The receptionist who makes you smile. Non "issue" roles. Just part of society.
I will keep on acting and one day hopefully get my dream role: playing a scary monster in an episode of Dr Who. Although I would also be happy with other leading roles.Suggest a correction