Author Topic: Being a Disabled Actor not Easy  (Read 1023 times)


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Being a Disabled Actor not Easy
« on: April 26, 2015, 08:24:24 PM »

Written by  Nancy Bianconi, Editor

Henry Holden is a member of The Group Rep at The Lonny Chapman Theatre but he also has the interest of the New York Times!

The Sunday New York Times popular Preoccupations column on April 27 featured the story of an actor, Henry Holden who shares tips with job hunters on how to overcome any adversity, disadvantage or disability in interviews and in life. This comes in light of Bureau of Labor statistics that show that during the fourth quarter of 2012 there were 70 percent more unemployed Americans with disabilities than those with no disabilities, according to the “Allsup Disability Study: Income at Risk.”

Henry contracted polio at the age of 4 in 1952, the worst and possibly last polio epidemic in the U.S., Henry has walked with crutches the rest of his life. But it has not slowed him down. It’s his “can-do” attitude that would inspire anyone.

“Attitudes are the real disability,” he tells anyone who will listen. (See videos link on his home page

An outspoken advocate of people with disabilities who helped start the Screen Actors Guild’s Committee of Performers With Disabilities, Holden shared with us that it was an uphill climb against bias and discrimination. Over the course of his life he has learned to ride horses, water ski, downhill ski, scuba dive, bowl and more. He has taught school, sold insurance and performed at prominent comedy clubs as a stand-up (yes standing up!!). But he is especially critical of the television and films industries.

“While African Americans, gays and women have broken through the glass ceiling of diversity in TV programming and films, creating opportunities for people with disabilities remains the last frontier of prejudice and bias in Hollywood.”   There are few role models for actors with disabilities in TV, film and on stage (other than Chester on “Gunsmoke,” Raymond Burr as “Ironsides,” Daniel Day-Lewis in "My Left Foot,” and the March of Dimes telethons)

As a clown on the TV show Kids Inc. (1984-93), he inspired several important episodes that portrayed a disabled person in a positive way and was one of the first shows to do just that. (See

While polio may be long forgotten for some, those who survived the ’52 epidemic are walking reminders of the once deadly disease and the power of human spirit

Henry is the founder of Performers with Disabilities for the Screen Actors Guild, he won the Joseph P. Riley Award for his unwavering commitment to work toward the inclusion of persons with disabilities in media. He is also the first recipient of the American Scene Award for his work in a music video. Henry produced an award-winning documentary, "Look Who's Laughing,” a comedy showcase that featured comedians with disabilities, including his own show “God Walks on Crutches.”

Editor's Note:  Henry, you are an Inspiration to us all!