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Ruderman Foundation Honored at Media Access Awards, Continues Work Through Inclusion Summit

Winner of the 2017 SAG-AFTRA New York Disability Awareness Award, Media Access Awards

Jason George standing at a podium with the sign Media Access Awards

Grey’s Anatomy’s Jason George

Boston, Mass., Nov. 22 — The Ruderman Family Foundation, which works to advocate for and advance the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout our society, received the SAG-AFTRA New York Disability Awareness Award at the Media Access Awards, which honors individuals who are showcasing the disability narrative accurately. SAG-AFTRA Diversity Chair Jason George accepted the award on their behalf during the ceremony in Los Angeles, Calif.

“We are sorry we couldn’t be there, but are very proud and honored by this recognition in Hollywood,” said Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “Thank you also to the Media Access Awards and all other partners and collaborators in Hollywood who are moving the needle on disability inclusion.”

Ruderman was not present because his foundation was holding its annual Inclusion Summit in Boston that weekend.

The Summit brought together more than 1,200 people from sectors including policy, human services, fashion, education, social justice, business and more to share best practices for including people with disabilities fully in every aspect of life.

Philip Kahn-Pauli, RespectAbility’s Policy Director, was among the attendees at the conference.

“The inclusion summit was multi-faceted in its approach to looking at disability, looking at identity, looking at culture,” said Kahn-Pauli. “Culture proceeds policy—looking at Hollywood and diversity in the stories we tell is just as important as Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) talking about policy toward the one-in-five people in the United States who have disabilities.”

The Summit hosted more than 50 top speakers including actress Marlee Matlin, singer Mandy Harvey, Sen. Maggie Hassan and aerial acrobatist Jen Bricker.

“Working in disability can be very disheartening at times, but attending a conference with so many speakers and advocates was very enlightening, very encouraging, very empowering,” Kahn-Pauli said.

Danny Woodburn standing behind a podium with a sign saying Ruderman Inclusion Summit

Danny Woodburn

The Inclusion Summit also featured a panel on The Ruderman White Paper: Representations of Persons with Disabilities in Television and Movies. The panel was moderated by actor, writer, and producer Danny Woodburn—known best for his role as Mickey in the hit sitcom Seinfeld.

Woodburn serves on the Performers with Disabilities Committee of SAG-AFTRA. He co-authored the White Paper, which found that 95 percent of television characters with disabilities are played by actors without disabilities.

“We represent 20 percent of the population and our numbers of unemployment fluctuate between 95 and 98 percent in this supposedly progressive film industry,” Woodburn said during the panel.

The panel also featured actor and producer Eileen Grubba; producer, writer and director Wendy Calhoun; actor, writer, and producer CJ Jones; and Tari Hartman Squire, CEO of EIN, SOF Communications, Inc.

“The default person, in a lot of shows, is white and able-bodied,” Calhoun said while stressing the importance of showing diversity in all facets.

Read the profile of Jason George awarding The Ruderman Family Foundation with the award on our website:

Meet the Author

Theresa Maher

Theresa Maher is a Communications Fellow at RespectAbility and a junior at American University. Her drive to advocate for people with disabilities started young when she realized her mother's students in special education and her uncle with autism were not accurately portrayed in Hollywood.

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