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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 just graduated from Sarah Lawrence College (NY) this May with a bachelor’s degree. She has been an advocate for disability and autism representation in the entertainment industry since 2017, when she became a founding member of a new neurodiverse theatre company, Spectrum Theatre Ensemble, in Rhode Island. Rigelhaupt  wrote and collaborated on the company’s first show, Identity Spectrum, about living with a disability. During that time, she was a neurodiverse intern with Trinity Repertory Company to create their first complete sensory friendly season. Sensory Friendly performances are accessible to patrons with sensory sensitivities such as Autism or post traumatic stress disorder. She also was invited to the Theatre Communication Group’s National conference to speak about being a neurodiverse artist. During Rigelhaupt’s senior year at Sarah Lawrence, she was the college’s Ruderman Family Foundation Inclusion Ambassador and worked with the theatre program to produce the school’s first sensory friendly performance, along with moderating a panel of industry professionals to discuss accessibility in entertainment.

Rigelhaupt has published multiple articles discussing topics such as autism, accessibility, being a Chinese adoptee, and studying abroad in Italy as an autistic college student. She hopes to work with entertainment companies and professionals to find and create more opportunities for diverse people with disabilities in the entertainment industry both on and off screen.


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

Eric Ascher is the Communications Associate for RespectAbility. He is responsible for supporting RespectAbility’s Communications Director 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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