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Ollie Cantos

Ollie Cantos, Board of Directors – Chairman

Ollie Cantos smiling in front of an American flag

Ollie Cantos

Ollie Cantos is the Chairman of RespectAbility’s Board of Directors. Cantos has been active in the civil rights arena since 1990.  He is Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, Attorney Mentor for the American Bar Association Commission on Disability Rights, and Member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Past positions include Staff Attorney and Director of Outreach and Education at the Disability Rights Legal Center, General Counsel and Director of Programs at the American Association of People with Disabilities, Special Assistant and later Special Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice, and Associate Director for Domestic Policy at the White House under President George W. Bush. Prior leadership posts include Vice Chair of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, Vice President of the Virginia Organization of Parents of Blind Children, Legal Officer for the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Vice President of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Chairman of the Board for Scholarships for Eagles, President of the California Association of Blind Students and the National Association of Blind Students, and member of the boards of directors of the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia, the Blind Children’s Center, Community Lodgings, the California Association to Promote the Use of Braille, the National Federation of the Blind of California, Loyola Marymount University Alumni Association, and Loyola Law School Alumni Association.

But Ollie is most grateful for his adoption of three blind triplet boys – Leo, Nick, and Steven.  Their compelling story has been told by National Public RadioPEOPLE MagazineThe Washingtonian MagazineUSA Today, and videos that went viral on NowThis.comHeartThreads.com, and others. In addition to local media coverage, they were featured as Persons of the Week on ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir In December 2017 for attaining the coveted rank of Eagle Scout as part of Boy Scouts of America. Their story has now reached a grand total of more than 53 million views.

Meet our Boards of Directors and Advisors

Learn about all of the members of RespectAbility’s Board of Directors and Advisors: https://www.respectability.org/about-us/meet-our-boards-of-directors-and-advisors/.

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 LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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