Coronation Street actors Cherylee Houston and Melissa Johns launch initiative to improve the representation of disabled actors
The Coronation Street stars believe that the industry can change the way they are treated in society, and so if the industry changes how it treats them, then it could be a start.
Two stars of the British television series, Coronation Street, have announced a new networking initiative to improve the representation of disabled artists across the entertainment industry.
Cherylee Houston and Melissa Johns, who have played Izzy Armstrong and Imogen Pascoe on the ITV soap respectively, have launched the Disabled Artists Network Community (DANC), which aims to bring change by opening up a dialogue with the industry.
"The more of us stand together, the more of a difference we can make," Cherylee told the BBC. "It's about that responsibility of putting back into your career for the people of the future for their careers, so people don't have to keep facing the blocks we faced."
The 42-year-old Cherylee was diagnosed with rare connective tissue disorder at the age of 23 and has used a wheelchair ever since. Melissa was born without her right forearm and describes herself as "Not a disabled actor but an actor with a disability".
Both the actresses joined Coronation Street in 2017, the popular British drama that aired its first episode in 1960. The story plot follows the daily routine of people from the working class living on a street in Weatherfield, Manchester, England.
Melissa and Cherylee are both disabled campaigners so the initiative of DANC has already been put on events with disabled and non-disabled people in the industry to try and "spread" the conversation and the knowledge.
"You grow up not seeing people with disabilities on screen or on stages, and when you do say to someone, 'I want to be an actor' or 'I want to be a dancer' or something in this industry, you do get funny looks," Melissa explained.
"This industry can change the way we're treated in society," Cherylee added. "So if we can change the way this industry embraces us… people won't have to face the blocks we faced."
Cherylee and Melissa believe that there needs to be an end to a "'them and us' situation", explaining that it is "everyone's responsibility" in order to affect change.
"If you can feel your fire burning out slightly," Melissa continued, "it doesn't take much for somebody to help fuel it a little bit and give you that little bit of hope that makes you fight even harder."