It’s Disability Awareness Month and Robert David Hall, 65, who has played coroner Dr. Al Robbins on the highly rated CBS show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” for the past 14 seasons is living proof that there is life after a disability. The popular character actor, who has appeared in several TV shows and and has a side gig as a professional musician, lost both of his legs after an accident with an gasoline oil tanker 34 years ago.
“I was working morning radio in Los Angeles,” says Hall. He says being an athlete (Hall was a pole vaulter in high school and college) helped him with his recovery after having both legs amputated. “It took me about a year to learn how to walk. I still use a wheelchair when I’m out of my artificial legs,” says the married father of a grown son. “I am really just so fortunate to be making my living as an actor and a musician and speaker. I just get my can out of bed every morning and try to do like everybody else.”
Hall went to UCLA and studied acting but says he never thought that he’d make a living at it.
“I’m one of those people who when you tell me I can’t do it, I just have to do it. I think it’s a good trait. It got me whacked around a lot as a kid, because my father said I was too stubborn for my own good, but it came to help me later on.”
Hall has played an active role in increasing awareness about people with disabilities. Some years ago, he introduced President Obama at the 20th Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act.
“At the Rose Garden, we spoke about the fact that 20% of Americans have a disability of some sort. That’s about 55 million people. It’s tough enough for anybody to get and keep a job these days, but it’s especially difficult for people with disabilities. Let’s face it, everyone is trying to find employment. The official title is Disability Employment Awareness. My good friend, Kareem Dale, is the disabilities advisor to President Obama and he’s working hard to spread the word and I go out and speak. I think everybody has a friend or family member who has a disability and just being a brother or sister to people and encouraging them. ”
This TV season on “Ironside,” an actor who is not disabled, Blair Underwood, is playing the role of a man who is. Does Hall think that an abled actor should have played the role?
“I would have liked them to have picked a qualified actor with a disability but Blair Underwood is a good man,” Hall says. (And no, he’s happy with his gig on “CSI” and was never considered to play the part.)
“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
For more information on Disability Awareness Month, click here: