When you're populating your novel with characters, do you go beyond the obvious?

As for obvious, I mean color of eyes, hair and skin, height, weight, and so on. A lot of writers don't go beyond those traits in differentiating their characters.

But just look around when you're at work, shopping, dining, or simply in your neighborhood. Do you see people in wheelchairs? How about someone with a seeing-eye dog? Or perhaps someone who is deaf? 

According to a news release by the Census Bureau in 2005, about one in five Americans reported a level of disability. Persons with disabilities are the largest minority group in the United States.

Think about some of the characters with disabilities that you've seen in movies and television programs:

Tom Cruise portraying Ron Kovic, who had a spinal-cord injury, in "Born of the Fourth of  July."

Marlee Matlin, who is deaf, for her Academy Award-winning performance in "Children of  Lesser God."

Wheelchair-bound Robert T. Ironside, portrayed by Raymond Burr, in the law-enforcement drama "Ironside" in the 1960-70s.

And there's Max in the TV series "Parenthood" who has Asperger's Syndrome; Corky in "Life Goes On" with Down Syndrome; and Adrian Monk, who has obsessive-compulsive disorder, in the "Monk" mystery series.  There are quite a few others but I hope you get the idea.

So think about all the populations in our society when you are crafting your story.

A key point to remember is that a person with a disability is a person first. Don't stereotype them. And the writer's rule of "show, don't tell" should be followed.