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Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2020

Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt smiling headshot

Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt

Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt (she/her/hers) is a writer, consultant, actress, public speaker, and advocate for disability and autism representation in the entertainment industry.

In June 2021, Rigelhaupt joined the Nickelodeon Live Action Casting Team for their immersive internship. Additionally, she’s an Autistic Creative Consultant on a developing musical (dir. Sammi Cannold), How to Dance in Ohio, based on the HBO documentary of the same name.

Previously, she was an Entertainment Media Communications Fellow with RespectAbility. Rigelhaupt became immersed in the entertainment industry through consulting with studios such as Disney and Netflix on authentic onscreen portrayals of disability and diversity. Rigelhaupt reviews scripts, discusses disability tropes, edits character sketches, and writes casting calls. She remains an ongoing entertainment consultant.

Rigelhaupt is a speaker on RespectAbility’s Jewish Speakers Bureau and Women and Nonbinary Speakers Bureau.

Rigelhaupt shares her lived experiences and expertise through multiple speaking engagements and public/internal panels (e.g., Disney and Netflix writers’ rooms, Actors’ Equity, Sundance Film Festival, The Kennedy Center). She publishes articles and critiques of disability representation in media, interviews with entertainment professionals, and experiences as a disabled AAPI woman.

Rigelhaupt was chosen to be a Ruderman Family Foundation Inclusion Ambassador her senior year at Sarah Lawrence College (class of 2020). Rigelhaupt produced the college’s first sensory friendly theatrical performance. She organized and moderated a panel of NYC professionals discussing entertainment inclusion practices with students and faculty. (Sensory friendly performances are made accessible to people with sensory sensitivities such as those with autism or PTSD).

Rigelhaupt develops stories based on her life experiences, writing scripts on the road to her screenwriting career, while keeping her eyes peeled for auditioning opportunities! She’s determined to educate and influence the entertainment industry, creating more opportunities and authentic representations for the talented and diverse disability community.


After an extensive search and interview process, 30 individuals were invited to participate in RespectAbility’s Summer 2020 Lab for Entertainment Professionals. This 5-week, 15-session virtual 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, will take place June 16 – July 16, 2020. 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:

  • Platinum Sponsors: Murray/Reese Foundation and The Walt Disney Company
  • Gold Sponsors: Cast & Crew, Comcast NBCUniversal and Final Draft
  • Silver Sponsors: Fox Corporation and Sony Pictures Entertainment

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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