As always, this is nothing more than my opinion and you need to keep two things in mind while reading my suggestions:
1. There is an exception to every rule
2. Context is everything.
We are more than our disability/disabilities.
What I mean by that is that it gets really tiresome when a story bangs on and on and on and on about the disability of a character. Unless your story is specifically about that struggle it really shouldn’t be the focus. Obviously, disabilities have an impact and that impact shouldn’t be ignored, either.
For example, your character is more easily exhausted because of their disability than they otherwise would, or maybe they have to take certain medication. There are many ways of incorporating disability, get creative.
Do you research. Listen to people’s thoughts.
Well, it’s really a writer mantra at this point but let me elaborate:
It is important to know the cold, hard facts surrounding the disability. However, that’s hardly where the research ends. From where I am sitting it is far more important to know how it impacts the way a person feels, thinks, and perceives the world around them and how the world does so in the same way. Because of my disability I am treated differently than my ablebodied friend. That’s fact.
Lucky for you there are countless blogs, books, and articles out there where you can find all these opinions and viewpoints. You have a wealth of information at your disposal. Use it.
Ask people with first-hand experience for their opinion. And the fear of screwing up.
I have two trans women in my story and once I have a draft that’s remotely readable I am going to ask several trans people to read it and point out the many mistakes I’ve probably made.
I entirely understand the fear of fucking up but I’ll let you in on a secret: That’s okay and normal. Keep trying and listening.
There is no one way to write a disabled character.
That’s hopefully obvious to most of you but it bears mentioning. We are a diverse bunch and everyone is different. There is no easy way to write a disabled person because it is only one factor of many that made them into the person they are today. Significant part, yes, certainly, but not the only or even the most important one. It varies from person to person.
You need to alter the way you think.
I’ve been doing a truckload of reading on writing diversity lately and I’ve come to the conclusion that one needs to change the way you think if you want to write from the point of a person that’s part of a marginalized group.
It goes back to what I’ve said earlier about perception. Marginalized people’s perception will be different because once you notice the ways in which we get shat on, it’s hard to ignore it. There’s a wide spectrum of discrimination.
It is staggering how “easily” I can get sad simply by looking at modern media and the lack of disabled characters in it, let alone well written ones.
Meaning you should consider writing characters that differ in more than one way from the norm (that being straight, white, able, cis, etc etc, men).
Having a disabled character is great, but what about the disabled, lesbian trans woman? Sure, the more specific you get, the less likely it is to encounter these people in real life, but all of them deserve stories. Every single last one of them.
Should you even write a disabled character?
That’s a tough one. On the one hand we really need more diverse stories and a lot of them will have to come from white, straight, able, etc, etc writers who don’t have first-hand experience.
I understand why many don’t want that.
It’s a question you are going to have to answer for yourself because it is one of those “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” type of situations. All I can say is think about why you want to write/include marginalized people in your story. If it’s because you want to be more inclusive, then do your best. I am eager to read more diverse stories.
A well-rounded character will sing regardless of any “modifiers.”
Meaning that basic character development is still the most important thing of all. Just keep in mind their life experience and what makes them tic and you should have little to worry about.
Treat them like people and be open to suggestions and criticism. You won’t get it right on your first try, but that’s okay. Keep trying and listening, that’s all I can really ask.