Disabled persons in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) face countless obstacles: ill-equipped roads and transportation systems, social rejection and limited access to jobs. Governments are making some progress passing legislation for disabled rights and raising awareness. But television has an unprecedented power to educate mainstream society and inspire them to embrace disabled persons.
City of the Stars is an idyllic setting, properly equipped for children with special needs to move around freely and fully integrate with other children. The show, a co-production between SAT-7 and SETI-Caritas Egypt, uses drama, art, and music to advance the conversation about disability awareness in MENA.
The innovative series City of the Stars aims to do this by ditching a number of common myths about disabilities:
MYTH: People with disabilities can’t master skilled tasks.
Actor Romany (pictured right), a 15-year-old born without limbs, competes in swimming and basketball championships. Some of his other favorite hobbies are soccer and PlayStation.
Actress Hanaa Mostafa (pictured left), a 17-year-old who has Down’s Syndrome, plays a main character in the show, selling tickets at the entrance to the city. During the production of the show, Hanaa learned to communicate with a deaf friend through sign language and assisted a blind friend moving around the set. She is also an athlete, having competed in swimming and basketball since the age of 9.
MYTH: Mainstream society should feel sorry for people with disabilities.
Sandy Fayez (pictured right), who plays a chef on the show, says “I call them children with special abilities, not children with special needs. They concentrate on improving whatever abilities they have to the maximum.”
MYTH: It takes experience and expertise to interact with people with disabilities.
Actor Sherif Zakhary (pictured left) had never worked with people with disabilities before. He says, “I learned to deal with them normally. I didn’t feel any difference or problems between us. We are a team and we are here to have fun without prejudice or judgment.”
MYTH: Disability is a curse or a blessing.
Janette Samir of SETI-Caritas (pictured right) says, “Children with special needs are not blessings or curses or superheroes. They are just like other children their age. We try to put them on the right track and support them all the way.”
MYTH: Blind people can’t enjoy or create art.
Blind children on the show learn to draw and color using wax lines and markings as a guide. This technique enables them to feel the design and express their creativity.
City of the Stars has already had a profound effect on the actors and filming crew. They overcame personal fears and formed genuine friendships that will forever impact how they approach people who differ from them. Imagine the potential for the show’s influence on people across the Arab region!
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© SAT-7 2018