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

Theresa Maher, Communications Apprentice

National Leadership Program, Fall 2017

Respectability fellow Theresa Maher smiling in front of the Respectability banner

Theresa Maher

Theresa Maher was a Communications Apprentice at RespectAbility, where she used 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 [email protected] for more information.



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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