Ruderman Foundation criticizes show for lack of inclusion

The Ruderman Foundation has criticized a new Israeli show about adults with autism for not including any actors with disabilities in the production.

On the Spectrum, a Yes series that has already won international acclaim, hit the airwaves in Israel last week. The show, created by Dana Idisis and Yuval Shafferman, follows three young adults on the spectrum of autism disorders who live in Tel Aviv. The threesome deal with all the normal things about life on their own, including jobs, dating and friendships – but with their own added struggles.

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The Ruderman Foundation, whose aim is to foster inclusion of those with disabilities, called out the show for not casting any actors with disabilities.

“In a series about people with disabilities, you must include actors with disabilities,” said Shira Ruderman, executive director of the foundation.

“This could have been an incredible opportunity to allow actors with disabilities to be represented on the screen in starring or supporting roles, to gain experience and fame and to develop an acting career. In Hollywood and around the world they understand the importance of authentic and sensitive casting more than ever,” she added.

“Just as it is no longer acceptable to cast a white man to play a black man, the same goes for representations of people with disabilities. It is unfortunate that the show’s creators and Yes did not understand or implement this.”

A spokesman for Yes said the actors who portray the lead characters worked closely with young adults on the spectrum.

“During auditions for the series, many actors were considered, including those on the autism spectrum,” said a Yes representative. “In addition, the actors who were selected for the roles studied the world of autism with the help of young people on the spectrum. And the series itself was created by a writer who was inspired by her autistic brother and his friends.”

The show won the top prize at SeriesMania earlier this month, and was praised for being “a funny and moving gem of a series that is carefully crafted and full of humanity, offering a bold new take on the autistic condition.” When Idisis took the stage to accept her award, she dedicated it to her brother, Guy, who has autism and is the inspiration for the series: “I hope you are happy and proud.”

Hannah Brown, the movie critic for The Jerusalem Post and the mother of a son with autism, also praised the show for being “entertaining, thoughtful and beautifully acted.”

“While it celebrates the moments of humor and grace,” Brown wrote, “it doesn’t minimize the difficulties they face, or their sadness and isolation.”