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Graciano Petersen

Graciano Petersen, Senior Director for Training, Culture, and Leadership Development

Graciano Petersen smiling headshot

Graciano Petersen, Senior Director for Training, Culture, and Leadership Development

Graciano Petersen is the Senior Director for Training, Culture, and Leadership Development at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. Graciano is dedicated to advancing equity across all sectors and providing accessible opportunities for upskilling and advancement. Graciano holds an MA in Second Language Acquisition from Tulane University, is fluent in Spanish, and is working towards fluency in Brazilian Portuguese.

Prior to joining RespectAbility, Graciano worked in adult education and school leadership. He has over 13 years of Adult Education experience and is passionate about making education accessible to all types and levels of learners. Graciano is currently on the Board at the Adult Numeracy Network as the Equity Officer where he focuses on working with board to make sure there is equity across the inner workings of the board and its committees.

Outside of work, Graciano is a carnivalist (a carnival enthusiast) and can be found engaging in carnival culture and leads the Vavá United School of Samba in DC.

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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 LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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