I love TV, I love puppies, and I love disability representation. So I might have to start watching kids shows because Disney's Puppy Dog Pals is introducing a disabled character and I have so many happy feels about it. The new character, Lollie, meets sibling pups Bingo and Rolly at a pet adoption event. She's a little different than other puppies there because Lollie moves around with wheels in place of her back legs. The characcter is voiced by Giselle Eisenberg who played Sophia on the CBS show Life In Pieces. But the best part about Lollie's introduction is that she's not just a guest — Lollie is a recurring character on the show.
Disney Junior created Lollie in accordance with guidelines from the non-profit organization Respect Ability, which aims to reduce stigmas for people with disabilities. Lollie was created so as to be relatable to kids (even though she's, you know, a cartoon dog), and help kids with disabilities feel represented on TV.
Puppy Dog Pals fans can meet Lollie Friday, July 12 when her first episode —titled "Adopt-A-Palooza" — premieres on Disney Channel at 8:30 a.m. ET. But check out a sneak peak of the adorable episode below.
As a wheelchair user, what struck me right away about this clip is that even though this is just the very beginning of the conversation between Lollie, Bingo, and Rolly, it doesn't center around Lollie's mobility equipment. Using that as an initial way to bond with a disabled person will probably make them feel awkward. It makes me uncomfortable when I'm meeting someone who isn't a child — but adults do it all the time.
Maybe people do this because they didn't have a show to watch growing up that acknowledged disability like Puppy Dog Pals does. So, I'm proud of the inclusive stance that Puppy Dog Pals and other popular shows like Peppa Pig are taking lately. The wheelchair and walker that I use to move around in the world don't hold me back. The equipment provides me freedom. It's the stigma around what it means to be disabled and people's attitudes about it that make life harder for most disabled people to succeed, especially in the entertainment industry.
Kids shows are making progress, but all genres of TV need to keep doing better. GLAAD's 2019 Where We Are On TV report which tracks TV representation among many minority groups including people with disabilities reported that in the 2018-19 TV season, only 2.1 percent of series regulars on network TV were characters with disabilities. That's extremely disproportionate to the U.S. disabled population, which is about 20 percent. Disney is doing important work with Puppy Dog Pals. Seeing a show like this on TV would've changed my life as a kid.
Performers like Ali Stroker, 2019 Tony winner and wheelchair user know how important representation is for youngsters. In her acceptance speech she said, "This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, who has a limitation or a challenge who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena. You are."
Progress is being made, but the fight for authentic disability representation is still an uphill battle. I'm happy to consider Disney and Puppy Dog Pals and ally for the cause, and can't wait to see Lollie's story.