Up-and-coming actress Sarah Tyson, who has cerebral palsy, not only filled a role normally snatched up by nondisabled performers, she also took authentic representation to the next level — by admitting that she wasn’t even acting.
“Yep,” confessed Tyson. “When I said, ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,’ I really meant it. I even broke my tailbone!”
Tyson continued, saying that the original script for the commercial called for a pretend fall in a bathtub but things got real a little too quickly. “We all know bathtubs are a death trap for disabled people,” said Tyson with a knowing smile. “But I truly intended to be acting. Before I knew what was happening, I was actually flat on my ass.”
Despite the shoot going differently than Tyson had planned, she emphasized that she was glad things turned out as they did. “I think the accident really filled a void,” she mused, citing industry research showing that only 1% of falls depicted in the media are authentic humiliating wipeouts, and of those wipeouts, just 0.1% are executed by disabled people. Tyson became emotional when asked what it meant for her to represent the community in this way, pausing to dab away tears from her eyes. “Growing up, I never saw anyone on television who looked like me. Everyone on my favorite shows seemed so at peace with gravity. Then there was me, tripping over nothing and landing in the garbage can.”
Tyson hopes her acting gig-turned-real-life injury makes a lasting impression on disabled youth hungry to see their experiences onscreen. “If my Life Alert commercial means just one little disabled girl sees herself reflected on television, I have accomplished my mission,” said Tyson from her perch on an overpriced donut cushion. “These heinous bruises on my left butt cheek are dedicated to those girls and anyone who knows the uniquely joyful experience of being heaved off the floor by an EMT who graduated from high school with you.”
Jake Wright, the EMT who assisted Tyson, expressed their mutual relief that Tyson wasn’t naked at the time of the incident. “I mean, she was wearing an ugly bathrobe for the Life Alert ad and it was slightly askew,” said Wright, “but at least she was decent. Besides, I joined Key Club in high school, so helping the differently abled is kind of my thing.”
Tyson believes that her career sharing relatable scenes from disabled life is only just beginning. When asked what role she is aiming for next, Tyson enthusiastically stated that seeing her palsy hand featured in a commercial promoting Botox for upper limb spasticity would be “an absolute dream come true.”