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RespectAbility & Jobs for People with Disabilities to be Featured on Emmy-Winning Reality Show Born This Way

Air Date: Tuesday, June 6 at 10 PM ET/9c on A&E TV

Brad Sherman speaking at the microphone with a RespectAbility banner behind him

Led by Rep. Brad Sherman, participants during RespectAbility’s “Workforce Development” session discussed how to move the needle on the employment rate of people with disabilities in Los Angeles, California and the country.

Washington, D.C., June 3 – RespectAbility is known for identifying and sharing best practices around advancing education, inclusion, training and employment for people with disabilities. Rep. Brad Sherman, the 10-term Congressman, is known as a serious legislator. So what are they doing in a reality show made by the same company that created Keeping up with the Kardashians, Rob & Chyna and Total Divas?

The reason is simple: they cohosted a major summit with Emmy-winning reality-TV innovator Jonathan Murray (executive producer of the shows listed above, in addition to Real World, Born This Way, Autism the Musical and others), former President George W. Bush appointee on disability issues, Steve Tingus, which was attended by cast members from the Emmy-winning show Born This Way.

The summit, entitled “Ending Stigmas & Bigotry: Expanding Employment for People with Disabilities,” was presented by Rep. Sherman working in partnership with RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities.

Born This Way cast members posing with RespectAbility staff members and Rep. Brad Sherman

RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Born This Way Cast Member Sean McElwee, RespectAbility Communications Director Lauren Appelbaum. Born This Way Cast Members Steven Clark, Cristina Sanz and Megan Bomgaars, Rep. Brad Sherman, Born This Way Executive Producer and RespectAbility Board Member Jonathan Murray

Both Murray and Tingus serve on the board of RespectAbility, whose president, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, and communications director, Lauren Appelbaum, are all featured in an episode of Born This Way that will air on Tuesday night at 10 PM ET/9c on A&E.

TV viewers will see the stars from the cast of Emmy-winning reality show Born This Way, which features seven diverse young adults with Down syndrome, as well as other individuals with Autism, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, physical disabilities, amputations and non-visible disabilities.

Local leaders, including Cathy Gott, Senior Government Relations Advisor for ETTA, Elaine Hall who leads the Miracle Project, Joclynn Benjamin, owner of Leaps n Boundz, Miriam Maya, Director of Caring and LAJAC at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Julie Platt, Chair of the Board of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, talent agent Gail Ford Williamson, photographer Michael Hansel, Margo Gleitman, Isabel Maxwell and others also participated in the summit.

John and Kurt smiling in an unposed photo. John's hook for a hand is visible

Actors John Lawson and Kurt Yaeger

Actors and directors with disabilities including MacGregor ArneyJenni Gold, Dominique Kang, John Lawson, Nic Novicki, Mark Povinelli and Kurt Yaeger also were in attendance.

Together, participants brainstormed new ideas to move the needle forward on the employment of people with disabilities in a shared agenda. Rep. Sherman facilitated these discussions.

Born This Way is a breakthrough show which is changing the disability lens from a “hand out” to a “hand up.”

Megan seated at a table with her mom Kris next to her

Born This Way Star Megan Bomgaars participating in the workforce session

Cast member Megan Bomgaars runs her own successful company, Megology, and Sean McElwee just started his own company as well called Seanese. John Tucker is a rapper, and his YouTube video has been watched more than 150,000 times. All of the stars have Down syndrome. When the show was recognized with an Emmy for outstanding unstructured reality program, three of its stars became the first people of color with disabilities to win an Emmy.

Steven Clark says that having a successful career is key to becoming independent for himself.

Steven in profile as he is talking

Born This Way Star Steven Clark

“I get to have more freedom,” Clark said. “I get to be more adult-oriented. I can finally relate to everyone else in the world who gets up early in the morning for a job.”

Only one-in-three working-age people with disabilities have a job. However, studies show that most people with disabilities want to work. The numbers are even worse for people with Down syndrome. However, the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Wired and other publications have extolled the “disability-advantage” to companies that hire talent that includes people with disabilities.

“Each year 300,000 young people with disabilities reach the age to enter the workforce,” Mizrahi said. “So it is wonderful that viewers of Born This Way will see young adults collaborating with a member of Congress to expand opportunities for employment and starting their own businesses.”

cover art for the cover for the Born This Way Fa Guide includes photos of the cast of Born This Way

Born This Way Fan Guide: Free Resources You Can Use

RespectAbility created a Born This Way Fan Guide with free resources for a variety of individuals:

Download an accessible Word document of the guide: https://www.respectability.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Born-This-Way-Fan-Guide-Free-Resources-You-Can-Use.docx.

The episode will air on Tuesday, June 6 at 10 PM ET on A&E Network.

For more information visit www.RespectAbility.org.

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the VP, Communications and Entertainment & News Media, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so all people with disabilities can fully participate in every aspect of community. As an individual with an acquired nonvisible disability – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – she works at the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. She regularly conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible for entertainment executives throughout the industry. Appelbaum partners with studios, production companies and writers’ rooms to create equitable and accessible opportunities to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the overall story-telling process. These initiatives increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people on screen, leading to systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities. She has consulted on more than 100 TV episodes and films with A&E, Bunim-Murray Productions, NBCUniversal, Netflix, ViacomCBS, and The Walt Disney Company, among others. She represents RespectAbility on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory Council, Disney+ Content Advisory Council, MTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working in development, production and post-production. She is a recipient of the 2020 Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award for this Lab. To reach her, email [email protected]

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