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Diversity, Equity and Equality in Hollywood Focus Group

This event was by invitation only.

If you have any questions, please contact Lauren Appelbaum at [email protected] or 202-591-0703.

Date: Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Time: The focus group begins at 6:00 p.m. Please plan to arrive by 5:45 p.m. to be seated before the group begins. Dinner will be provided.
Location: Provided with RSVP.
Contact: Lauren Appelbaum, [email protected] or 202-591-0703

We invite you to watch behind the glass of a focus group that will investigate existing perceptions of people with disabilities among entertainment decision makers. We will work to identify messages and strategies to fight stigma and advance opportunities for people with disabilities in the industry.

People with disabilities are the largest minority in America, with almost one-in-five Americans having a disability. Yet the disability community often is forgotten in inclusion and diversity conversations. According to GLAAD, fewer than two percent of scripted television characters (15) had disabilities in 2016. Furthermore, more than 95 percent of characters with disabilities on television are played by actors without disabilities.

What does exist is misleading. Almost all portrayals of people with disabilities in media are white, despite the fact that disability impacts all. Anyone can join the disability community at any point and people with disabilities come from all communities – including the African American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American and LGBTQ communities.

According to a recent report by The Media, Diversity, & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, only 2.7 percent of all speaking or named characters in film were shown to have a disability in 2016 (up from 2.4 percent in 2015). None of the leading characters were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group or the LGBT community.

“The results of this analysis on characters with disabilities reveal clear discrepancies between the real world and the ‘reel world,'” the report says. “Stories that reflect the full lives of characters with disabilities and the demographic diversity of this community remain elusive in film.”

The report shows that in the last decade there has been almost no progress on diversity, equity and equality in Hollywood. Therefore, we need to find a better model to move change.

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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