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John Lawson

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2019

John Lawson smiling headshot

John Lawson

In 1987 while working a “real job” (as his dad use to say) in between acting and singing jobs, John was injured in an electrical accident painting an above ground water storage tank that resulted in 30 percent burns to his body and amputations of both hands. John started playing piano at age three, started lessons at four and studied piano for 17 years. After four months in the North Carolina Jay-Cee Burn Center, at age 30, John left with hooks in place of hands. Since leaving the hospital, John has become the first double hand amputee to be trained and certified as a private pilot in the U.S. and the only double hand amputee to be a certified PADI SCUBA Instructor in the world.

John is an award winning writer/director and PWD (person with a disability) actor with past television roles in Law and Order: SVU, Switched at Birth and American Horror Story: FREAK SHOW, as well as roles in numerous films. John has spent more than 25 years as an advocate for accuracy and authenticity of performers with disabilities in film and television. 


After an extensive search and interview process, 22 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s Summer 2019 Lab for Entertainment Professionals. This 5-week, nine-session innovative summer lab series for people interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles, takes place June 18 – July 18, 2019. Participants include diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. Learn more:

This program, which continues building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes, is made possible with support by: Comcast NBCUniversalJonathan Murray and The Walt Disney Company.

Meet the Author

Eric Ascher

Eric Ascher is the Communications Associate for RespectAbility. He is responsible for supporting RespectAbility’s Vice President, Communications in developing and implementing advocacy efforts and communications of various types. Ascher manages RespectAbility’s social media channels, website and emails; organizes and develops webinars; and supervises Communications Fellows.

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