“Glee” aired an episode in November 2009 called “Wheels,” which emphasized the unique struggle of wheelchair-bound Artie when the glee club couldn’t afford a wheelchair-friendly bus to take them to regionals.
The episode featured two actresses with Down’s Syndrome playing characters with Down’s syndrome, which called attention to the fact that Kevin McHale, who plays Artie, is not disabled in real life. Criticism of the casting choice poured in from the Associated Press, the Media Access Office, and disabled “CSI” actor Robert David Hall.
On Friday (March 19) a letter was posted on the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation website from disabled actor Zach Weinstein, who was recently hired for a guest-starring role on “Glee.”
Weinstein, who is wheelchair-bound, couldn’t say much about the episode, but he did say that he’ll be playing “a character who had suffered a spinal cord injury.” He also mentioned that he had his own trailer, equipped with a wheelchair lift. “I got to say things like, ‘Call me when you’re ready; I’ll be in my trailer.'”
Like his character, Weinstein himself was disabled by a spinal cord injury — his happened in a summer camp boating accident.
In response to the criticism, Weinstein says, “I know for a fact that the producers did audition actors who use wheelchairs [for the role of Artie]. If Kevin McHale was best for the part, then it shouldn’t matter whether or not he’s able to walk in real life.”
Photo Credit: Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation; Fox