Lauren Appelbaum, Lab Director and RespectAbility Vice President, Communications
Lauren Appelbaum is the Vice President, Communications, at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.
As an individual with an acquired nonvisible disability – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – she writes about the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. From entertainment professionals to presidential campaigns, journalists to philanthropists, she conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible.
Appelbaum provides tools, trainings and contacts to support creative and business executives at major production companies and studios to improve the number and quality of authentic, diverse and inclusive representation of people with disabilities on screen. She and her team have consulted on projects with A&E, Amazon Studios, Bunim-Murray Productions, NBCUniversal, Netflix and The Walt Disney Company, among others. She also increases hiring initiatives of people with disabilities behind the camera and enriches the pool of disabled talent in Hollywood by connecting them to those who can assist with their careers, both on the creative and business sides of the industry. Appelbaum 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.
Focusing on employment best practices, she is the talent behind #RespectTheAbility campaign, which highlights model employers that demonstrate how hiring workers with disabilities benefits the employer, the employee and society. The campaign’s goal is to erase negative and untrue stigmas associated with hiring people with disabilities.
She also supervises several Fellows through RespectAbility’s Fellowship Program. Her Fellows ultimately want to go into careers in journalism, public relations, political communications or the entertainment industry.
Outside of work, Appelbaum is active in community theater. She has served in a variety of behind-the-scenes roles for more than a dozen musicals and plays. Having organized volunteer ASL interpreters and coordinated ADA seating at performances, as well as directing a nonverbal actor with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair, she understands first-hand the importance of inclusion of both performers and others with disabilities.
Appelbaum has been quoted in many articles by national publications including Associated Press, IndieWire, The Los Angeles Jewish Journal, RealScreen, Tablet, USA Today and Variety. She has spoken on panels at the RealScreen Summit, New England Newspaper and Press Association Conference, Association of Health Care Journalists Conference, and ComNet, among others.
Born and raised in the Philadelphia area, Appelbaum has a master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Syracuse University; she also has undergraduate degrees from Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. She then served as a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit for the 2006 midterm and 2008 presidential elections. Appelbaum currently lives in Maryland with her husband, daughter and dog.