Skip Navigation
Image of two young adults at a computer smiling

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:

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

For more information visit or email


Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum
Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the Vice President, Communications, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities, and managing editor of The RespectAbility Report, a publication at the intersection of disability and politics. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit. As an individual with an acquired invisible disability - Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy - she writes about the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. From entertainment professionals to presidential campaigns, journalists to philanthropists, she conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible. Behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, Appelbaum engages decision makers and creatives to improve the quality and number of authentic, diverse and inclusive presentations of people with disabilities on TV and film so audiences can see people with disabilities as vital contributors in America and around the world. She and her team have consulted on projects with Amazon, Disney/ABC Television, NBCUniversal, Netflix, and The Walt Disney Studios, among others. Appelbaum also enriches the pool of disabled talent in Hollywood by nurturing and connecting them to those who can assist with their careers, both on the creative and business sides of the industry. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit, which was created to help entertainment professionals to be as inclusive of people with disabilities as possible, and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working behind the camera. To reach her, email

0 comments… add one

Leave a Reply

Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.


HQ: 11333 Woodglen Drive, #102, Rockville, MD 20852
West Coast: 350 S Bixel Street
Los Angeles CA 90017

Office Number: 202-517-6272


RespectAbility and is a GuideStar Platinum Participant. GuideStar Platinum Participant Logo
Translate »