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First-Ever Community Resource Guide for Residents of Long Beach with Disabilities Released

Long Beach Resource Guide Cover

Download PDF of Guide in English or Spanish

Long Beach, Nov. 16 – More than 20 community leaders gathered for dinner at disability-owned 4th and Olive Wednesday night to celebrate the release of the first-ever comprehensive catalog of resources for residents of Long Beach living with disabilities. The guide was made possible by the Long Beach Community Foundation and a grant from the Knight Foundation.

The community resource list guide, which is available in both English and Spanish, is part of a larger project to increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities in Long Beach. Long Beach is home to more than 46,000 working-age people with disabilities, while local schools teach more than 9,000 students with disabilities. Currently, only 21 percent of Long Beach residents with disabilities have jobs in the community compared to the national average of 34 percent.

The guide covers a range of topics important to individuals with disabilities, families that have children with disabilities, parents and service providers.  Those topics include:

  • Resources for Youth
  • Disability Advocacy Resources
  • Parent Organizations
  • Family Support Groups
  • Workforce Development Programs
  • College Supports and Services
  • Free Employment Resources
  • Free College Preparation Supports

RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi addressing the group

“A big part of the challenge for individuals with disabilities and their families is that they do not know the resources that are available to them,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility, a Washington, D.C.-based national nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities for people with disabilities, which organized this project and dinner. “We hope that this guide will help people achieve higher skills and educational outcomes, as well as get good jobs.”

As part of this project, RespectAbility is looking to hear feedback from community members. Share your opinion about your experiences and ideas for how to make Long Beach a better community for people with disabilities. Please do so via or English or Spanish survey.

Local Celebrity Cristina Sanz

Cristina Sanz and her father listening to community members share their thoughts

Local celebrity and Emmy-award winner Cristina Sanz of A&E’s Born This Way talkedabout the importance of the availability of community resources playing a role in her success as a young adult with Down syndrome.

“Everyone who supported me, from my school to the Regional Center, and all the other resources helped me get me to my BIGGEST DREAM,” Sanz said. “My biggest dream is to be INDEPENDENT. And thanks to my two JOBS I am living my dream.”

Sanz also now lives in her own apartment, and hopes to someday share an apartment with her fiancé Angel.

Sanz grew up in Long Beach, attending local schools and participating in a community ballet class. After high school, she participated in a job-training program. She worked at Old Navy, Trade Joe’s, Marshall’s and Lohemans while also taking a few classes at Long Beach City College. Two days a week, she would practice cooking skills at the Senior Center.

John Tucker, Cristina Sanz and Sean McElwee of Born This Way

Now, she continues to volunteer in the cafeteria at the Senior Center while also working as a staff assistant at her dad’s school.

“I am happy I have a job and I get my paycheck,” Sanz said to applause.

Last year, Sanz became the first Hispanic woman with a developmental disability to win an Emmy award. Born This Way stars seven diverse young adults with Down syndrome. Sanz’ co-stars John Tucker and Sean McElwee also attended the dinner.

“The show tells our stories, our dreams,” Sanz said. “People can see that our lives are most of the time very typical. People with disabilities have jobs, fall in love, have businesses and enjoy time with friends.”

Community partners celebrating the release of the guide

Other attendees included key partners in this project: Anjali Atkins and Regina Todd of the Long Beach Unified School District; Chan and Mark Hopson of the Khmer Parent Association; Jocelyn Howard and Shantae Short of the College Internship Program of Long Beach; Irene Martinez and Irma Tena of Fiesta Educativa; Jose Gonzalez of the Southern California Resource Services for Independent Living; and Nancy Spiegel of the Harbor Regional Center.

“As a person with a disability as someone who knows what it means to parent a child with multiple disabilities, I know that it takes hard work and a team,” Mizrahi said. “The opportunities for people with disabilities in Long Beach are limitless when people work together and are willing to collaborate. It was wonderful to see all of the ingredients for success in Long Beach. Now it is just a matter of putting the pieces of a puzzle together.”

Sanz left the dinner guests with a parting message: “I may look different. I may sound different. But I have dreams just like you. Thank you RespectAbility for letting me share my story.”


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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