Read and Watch These Four Stories About Disability This Holiday Season

movie posters for a man in a wheelchair and his caregiver riding on a back, a boy wearing an astronaut helmet with his parent and a man in a wheelchair with a middle-aged man on the left and young woman on the right

The silver screen has been featuring more and more stories about people with disabilities, whether it be developmental, physical, or mental. With more representation in popular culture, comes more understanding about disabilities like Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and inspiration for those with disabilities, who see themselves in the characters on screen.

We’ve developed a list, based on feedback on social media, and our expertise on the subject, of movies and the books that inspired them that focus on people with disabilities and their unique challenges. Our hope is that by reading and watching these stories, you’ll find common ground and push through your own adversity.

You can also recommend these works of fiction (and nonfiction) to friends and family not familiar with disability, so they can better understand and support you and your family.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caring

Author Jonathan Evison writes a story about the unlikely friendship made between a freshly-minted caregiver and an angsty 19-year-old boy with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The two embark on a roadtrip to visit his father, and along the way have unexpected adventures, some hilarious, some somber and difficult.

This book was adapted in the Netflix Original Film, The Fundamentals of Caring, in 2016, with Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez.


People with disabilities often look different, whether they use a power wheelchair or walk with a limp or use a ventilator. August (Auggie) the main character in this book, is physically capable, yet he has a facial deformity that introduces a whole set of challenges when he enters a mainstream elementary school for fifth grade.

It’s also a 2017 film of the same name, starring Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts as Auggie’s parents.

The Upside

In this movie, Bryan Cranston, plays a rich man who became a quadriplegic after a paragliding accident. He finds an unexpected caregiver in Kevin Hart, who has no experience, but pushes Cranston’s character out of his comfort zone. The unexpected duo become friends and surpass a simple working relationship.

It’s based on the memoir of an Algerian conman who becomes the caregiver of a rich Frenchman. That book was turned into the French movie, The Intouchables, which was the basis for the plot of The Upside.   

5 Feet Apart

This novel is your typical teenage love story, but with a major challenge – the two lovers can’t get closer than 6 feet. They both have cystic fibrosis, and they must stay distanced to prevent passing a life-threatening infection to one or the other. It’s about a disability that prevents you from being with the person you love; about the risk one is willing to take to fully love the other.

It was also made into a 2019 movie of the same name starring Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson.

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