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RespectAbility’s VP of Communications Awarded Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award

Logos for Roddenberry foundation and unreasonable conversation.Los Angeles, California, June 18 – Announced on the first day of RespectAbility’s Summer Lab, RespectAbility’s Vice President of Communications Lauren Appelbaum was announced as a recipient of The Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award in partnership with Propper Daley’s A Day of Unreasonable Conversation for this innovative Lab program.

“Our goal is to support creators who are fighting to break down barriers to access and representation, and to erase limits on the type of stories we tell, who gets to tell them, and how,” explained Greg Propper, President of Propper Daley and Founder of A Day of Unreasonable Conversation.

head shot of Lauren wearing an orange blazer, smiling and facing the camera color photoAppelbaum, who leads RespectAbility’s Hollywood Inclusion efforts and authored the nonprofit’s Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit in 2018, created the Lab as a pilot program in 2019 with the assistance of RespectAbility Hollywood Inclusion Associate Tatiana Lee and Board Members Delbert Whetter and Jonathan Murray. The Lab brings authentic and diverse portrayals of people with disabilities to the screen by creating a pipeline of diverse professionals with disabilities behind the camera. The Lab began earlier this week for 31 participants and will take place over the next five weeks.

This award helps ensure full accessibility for all of our participants including live captioning and ASL interpreters for 15 professional development and additional networking sessions, as well as individualized job coaching.

Applications opened at a kickoff event at the home of Jonathan Murray and Harvey Reese in March 2020 shortly before the industry shutdown due to the coronavirus. As a board member for RespectAbility, one of his goals is get Hollywood to let people with disabilities tell their own stories.

Summer Lab 2019 participants smile together around a statue of Mickey Mouse at The Walt Disney animation studios

Summer Lab 2019 participants at The Walt Disney Studios. Credit: Jeff Maynard

The Lab also was the Fan Favorite chosen by the Arc Tank audience for the Northeast Arc’s “The Arc Tank 3.0,” which was created to positively disrupt conventional methods of providing services to people with disabilities. RespectAbility’s 2019 pilot Lab led to five of the 16 emerging track participants finding employment at several studios including Paramount Pictures and the Walt Disney Company.

Faculty Advisors, who helped develop the curriculum as well as by recruiting and evaluating participants, include: Cheryl Bedford (Founder, Women of Color Unite), Deborah Calla (Chair, Diversity Committee, Producers Guild of America; Media Access Awards), Fanshen Cox (Head of Strategic Outreach, Pearl Street Films), Sue Obeidi (Director, Hollywood Bureau, Muslim Public Affairs Council), Jonathan Murray (Founder and Executive Consultant, Bunim-Murray), David Renaud (Writer, The Good Doctor), Shoshannah Stern(Writer and Creator, This Close), Delbert Whetter (Chief Operating Officer & Head of Business Affairs, Exodus Film Group), and Alex Yellen (cinematographer). In addition, two 2019 alumni Nasreen Alkhateeb and Leah Romond, are assisting with this program as Senior Production Advisors.

This program is made possible with additional 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, Sony Pictures Entertainment and ViacomCBS

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum
Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the Vice President, Communications, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities, and managing editor of The RespectAbility Report, a publication at the intersection of disability and politics. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit. As an individual with an acquired invisible 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. Behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, Appelbaum engages decision makers and creatives to improve the quality and number of authentic, diverse and inclusive presentations of people with disabilities on TV and film so audiences can see people with disabilities as vital contributors in America and around the world. She and her team have consulted on projects with Amazon, Disney/ABC Television, NBCUniversal, Netflix, and The Walt Disney Studios, among others. Appelbaum also enriches the pool of disabled talent in Hollywood by nurturing and connecting them to those who can assist with their careers, both on the creative and business sides of the industry. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit, which was created to help entertainment professionals to be as inclusive of people with disabilities as possible, and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working behind the camera. To reach her, email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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