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Why I want more disabled characters in books

Teen blogger Megan The Book Addicted Girl kicks off a day of celebrating disabilities diversity in children’s books – and calling for more
Why I want more disabled characters in books

Megan the Book Addicted Girl: Being in a wheelchair, being disabled, doesn’t define me. (Seen here with Malorie Blackman). Photograph: Emily Drabble

About a year ago, I wrote a piece for this site asking where all the wheelchairs were in children’s fiction. And I’m still wondering – but not just about wheelchairs. Now I’m also wondering where are all the people with other so-called “disabilities” – blind or deaf protagonists, protagonists on a wider range of the autistic spectrum, or even just children who are “different” and have learnt to see and travel the world in a different way.

You see, I’m not the biggest fan of the word “disabled”. I don’t think not being able to walk or see or anything else classed as a disability makes you unable. You just… adapt – you become able in a different way. Maybe you learn to read with your fingers or hear by signing. Or like me, learn to walk using your arms – which sounds more impressive than it is! You see, I’m in a wheelchair and have been for years, thanks to a neurological condition that has left me unable to use, move or even feel my legs – but don’t ask me about the condition I have: even the doctors don’t really understand it!

However, being in a wheelchair, being disabled, doesn’t define me. I’m a blogger, a vlogger, a daughter, a friend, a reader, a total book addict, a crime show lover, a crafter, a student, a multi fandom girl who mostly goes by the name The Book Addicted Girl and… I’m in a wheelchair. It’s just part of what makes me.

Like I said in my article on the Guardian: I want characters like me in books. I want brilliant, complex characters, who just happen to be disabled in some way. I don’t want “issue books” – I just want books with disabled characters in. I want a steampunk adventure and mystery, where one of the ladies is blind and uses an awesome walking stick to walk and fight. I want a murder mystery where one of the team members is in a wheelchair. I want an epic fantasy where one of the kids has autism. I want exciting books that feature disabled characters as easily as they’d feature a character with brown hair or a bad attitude (‘cause we all know how often protagonists in YA fantasy have those!).

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