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Summer 2017 Fellows standing or seated in wheelchairs, smiling and posing for the camera

Theresa Maher, Communications Fellow

National Leadership Program, Fall 2017

Respectability fellow Theresa Maher smiling in front of the Respectability banner

Theresa Maher

Theresa Maher is a Communications Fellow at RespectAbility, where she uses her writing skills to advocate for people with disabilities. She is most eager to help further an accurate and person-centered portrayal of people with disabilities in mainstream Hollywood.

Maher’s drive to advocate for people with disabilities started at a young age when she realized that the realities of her mother’s students in special education and of her uncle, a person with autism, did not match up to the portrayals of individuals with disabilities in mainstream Hollywood.

Previously, Maher has worked in collaboration with Catholic Charities’ group homes for adults with disabilities to hold a Variety Show at her high school from 2011-2015. Each year, the show included one song-and-dance performance for each group home on Long Island, and one finale where all the high school students and the adults from the group homes would perform together, which related to the theme of that given year’s show.

Maher is in her third year at American University. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in print journalism with a double-minor in international service and health promotion. Maher has been a Peer Wellness Educator for the past year at American University. Through participating in identity workshops as a Peer Wellness Educator, Maher has learned to be more conscious of people with disabilities on her campus, and how the way that we occupy space and use language can have an impact on how they navigate their identity.


RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact for more information.



Meet the Author

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

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