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Appendix A: RespectAbility in the News

To Read More, Go Back To 2021 Annual Report Homepage

Below are some select mentions of RespectAbility and quotes from our team members that appeared in major media outlets in 2021.

Eurogamer: “It’s a true frontier of game design”: How Naughty Dog and Insomniac Games think about accessibility

December 18, 2021 

For Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, we consulted with RespectAbility to understand how to best portray two of our main characters with disabilities. This included Clank, who loses his arm and the use of his legs at the start of the game, and Rivet, who has had a prosthetic arm before the story begins. The RespectAbility consultants helped us identify areas of the story where the characters’ disabilities could be perceived negatively and they suggested opportunities to show them as being resourceful, multi-faceted, and heroic. It’s been amazing to see the outpouring of love for these characters, especially from the disabled community. We’re excited about continuing to create worlds that represent characters from a wide range of backgrounds and we hope it continues to resonate with our fans. 

Variety: Nonprofit RespectAbility Receives $1 Million Grant from Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

December 2, 2021

RespectAbility, a disability-focused nonprofit, announced a $1 million donation from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which will be leveraged through an existing 1-1 matching campaign. The donation will help RespectAbility pursue its multifaceted goal of removing physical, programmatic and attitude barriers, which, they hope, will enable “full participation” in every aspect of society for all people with disabilities. “As we look to the future to envision the full scope of what is truly possible for people with disabilities, we are deeply grateful to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for its $1 million dollar investment,” said Ollie Cantos, the chairman of RespectAbility’s board of directors.

The Jerusalem Post: ‘Disabled US Jews twice as likely to live in poverty’ – new report

November 17, 2021

A RespectAbility survey identified substantially higher poverty rates among those with disabilities, in spite of high levels of education and a strong desire to work on the part of this community. The survey was carried out by RespectAbility, a US nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of the community. On the positive side, it demonstrated that Jewish communal organizations are making steady advances toward building a more inclusive community for people with physical, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. On the positive side, it demonstrated that Jewish communal organizations are making steady advances toward building a more inclusive community for people with physical, sensory, mental health and other disabilities.

TIME: Eternals Introduces Marvel’s First Deaf Superhero. But Accessibility Issues Still Plague Moviegoers

November 11, 2021

Delbert Whetter, a deaf producer who is the vice chair of RespectAbility’s Board of Directors, says that a strength of Makkari’s portrayal is that her disability is one of the superhero’s many features and not her defining trait. “A lot of times when people think about trying to develop characters with disability they find a way to connect it with the story,” Whetter tells TIME. “But her disability is not connected to the plotline.” Instead, it’s a part of Makkari that isn’t over-explained, he says.

Deadline: Gold House & CAPE Team With NALIP, RespectAbility & Color Of Change For Inaugural #OneOpen Box Office Campaign To Support Marvel’s ‘Eternals’

November 1, 2021

Gold House is expanding its efforts to support and amplify films led by diverse talent with its #OneOpen campaign for Marvel’s Eternals. The nonprofit, along with CAPE, will team up with multicultural orgs NALIP, RespectAbility and Color of Change to provide support for the Chloe Zhao-directed Marvel flick which touts lead cast of diverse actors.

“There are more than 15 million adults in the U.S. with a hearing disability and enjoying a movie in theatres often has been cumbersome due to less than satisfactory experiences with limited accessibility options in theatres. We hope the expansion of open caption screenings led by the release of Eternals marks the beginning of a more inclusive moviegoing experience for all,” added Delbert Whetter, deaf producer and RespectAbility board vice chair.

Deadline: New Report Reveals Disabled U.S. Audiences Feel Onscreen Portrayals Are Inaccurate & Too Simplistic

October 20, 2021

As many in Hollywood are fond of saying, the report emphasizes that it all starts with a good story. “It is not only important to increase the representation but also to ensure that the narrative is good,” note RespectAbility’s Lauren Appelbaum, Tatiana Lee, Vanni Le and Lesley Hennen in the report. “It’s not enough to just be included – we have to be included in an authentic way, telling diverse, complex stories of the disability experience, and avoid falling into the trap of inspiration porn, which assumes that anyone with a disability must have it so much worse, and uses people with disabilities to make non-disabled people feel good about themselves.”

Chronicle of Philanthropy: How to Ensure People With Disabilities Can Participate Fully in Virtual Events

October 7, 2021

It’s often easy and inexpensive to make virtual events accessible to people with disabilities, says Jennifer Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility. But adding access features such as video captions or sign-language interpretation to these events after they’ve been organized is not the same as including and welcoming this community, she says.

NBC News: Tokyo Paralympic Games welcomes record number of LGBTQ athletes

August 22, 2021

When the 2020 Paralympics kick off on Aug. 24, there will be at least 27 openly LGBTQ athletes from eight countries competing, according to LGBTQ sports site Outsports. That’s more than double the 12 who competed at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, and it comes after record-setting representation at the Tokyo Summer Games, where at least 185 queer Olympians competed, according to Outsports.

Lauren Appelbaum of RespectAbility, a nonprofit that works to change how society views people with disabilities, said the increased visibility points to the “large intersection” between the LGBTQ and disabled communities. “We hope that even more out athletes participate in the future,” Appelbaum said in a statement, “as it is critical for all disabled people to have positive role models for success.”

FOX News: Disability inclusion efforts in Hollywood range from authentic casting to opportunities behind-the-scenes

August 18, 2021

The non-profit ‘RespectAbility’ is one organization consulting with content creators; Fox’s Ashley Dvorkin has more.

USA Today: ‘Deafness isn’t a monolith’: Deaf communities praise, criticize new Apple TV+ movie ‘CODA’

August 17, 2021

“After seeing so many stories where people with disabilities are depicted as helpless, forlorn souls needing to be rescued, it is so refreshing to see a story with deaf characters that are small business owners and leaders in their fishing community, with depth and nuance that rival and even exceed that of their hearing counterparts in the story,” says [Delbert] Whetter, who is also vice-chair of the disability nonprofit RespectAbility.

Chronicle of Philanthropy/AP News: MacArthur aims to help people with disabilities find work

August 4, 2021 

RespectAbility is using a new $75,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation to nudge foundations to hire people with disabilities and make any accommodations needed so they can perform to the best of their ability. The philanthropy Fellowship, which will use the MacArthur grant to provide a $15 an hour wage, is an added component of its existing Fellows program, which for nine years has trained people in communications and policy jobs.

Hollywood Reporter: 4 Ways Hollywood Is Working to Increase Deaf and Disability Inclusion

August 4, 2021

RespectAbility’s annual summer lab, which recently added Final Draft as a multiyear sponsor, provides workshops, mentorship and networking opportunities for emerging and mid-career entertainment professionals who have gone on to work at such companies as Disney, Netflix, Paramount and Showtime.

RespectAbility’s Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit addresses frequently asked questions about accessibility, etiquette, terminology and the law. The nonprofit also boasts a team of 20-plus entertainment media experts who have consulted on more than 200 movies and TV shows (including more than 160 projects so far in 2021) and conducted training for such companies as CAA, Disney, DreamWorks, Netflix and Sony.

Bloomberg Law: Long-Haul Covid Discrimination Emerges as Workplace Legal Risk

August 2, 2021

“There are a lot of things that become disabilities, depending on their effect on your life,” said Matan Koch, vice president of workforce, leadership, and faith programs for RespectAbility, an advocacy group focused on people with disabilities. “If there were to be litigation on the topic, then the litigation would probably be focused on that substantial impairment question.”

Variety: TV Lags Far Behind Film in Disability Representation, Nielsen/RespectAbility Study Reveals (EXCLUSIVE)

July 28, 2021

RespectAbility, which focuses on promoting more accurate and diverse portrayals of people with disabilities, says the industry still has much work to do. “Even though the number of disabled characters on screen continues to increase in recent seasons, the majority of available roles, an estimated 95 percent, are portrayed by talent without a disability,” said Lauren Appelbaum, vice president, communications and entertainment & news media, RespectAbility. “When disability is a part of a character’s story, too often content can position people with disabilities as someone to pity or someone to cure, instead of portraying disabled individuals as full members of our society.”

New York Times: Study Shows More Disability Stories Onscreen, but Few Disabled Actors

July 28, 2021

Let’s start with the good news: Significant depictions of disability on film and television shows have nearly tripled over the past decade compared with the previous 10 years. Almost all of those titles, however, still don’t feature disabled actors. That was the conclusion of a new study released Wednesday by Nielsen and the nonprofit organization RespectAbility, which analyzed the representation of disabled characters on film and TV shows released from 1920 to 2020.

Good Day LA, FOX 11: Recognizing the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

July 26, 2021

31 years ago, then President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. The law prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities. Former congressman Steve Bartlett, who was one of the authors of the ADA, and Ollie Cantos, the incoming chairman of the non-profit organization RespectAbility, joined Good Day LA to discuss.

Hollywood Reporter: Final Draft Partners With RespectAbility for Entertainment Lab

July 23, 2021

Screenwriting software Final Draft is has forged a multi-year partnership with RespectAbility — the non-profit that seeks to combat stigmas for people with disabilities— coming on as a sponsor of its annual Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities. Said Final Draft president Shelly Mellott, “We are fully committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. Stories need to come from everywhere and everyone, and we want to make sure we play our part in ensuring underrepresented writers are seen by Hollywood. We are excited to see the stories this partnership produces.”

Buzzfeed News: How Autistic People Are Showing The Limitations Of Person-First Language

July 6, 2021

“What becomes so difficult is there’s not necessarily a right answer of person-first versus identity-first. Individuals will feel very strongly one way or another, and I myself use both interchangeably,” said Lauren Appelbaum, vice president of communications at RespectAbility, adding that the divide might also be a generational one; an older person is more likely to use person-first language than a teenager or young adult is.

USA Today: ‘I am not ashamed’: Disability advocates, experts implore you to stop saying ‘special needs’

June 11, 2021

Parents may be more comfortable using “special needs.” But their children most likely won’t take that with them into adulthood. “While it is used by parents of disabled kids, as those kids become young adults, they do not use this term,” Lauren Appelbaum, vice president of communications at RespectAbility says.

Hollywood Reporter: RespectAbility Announces Entertainment Lab Participants

May 27, 2021

RespectAbility– the non-profit that seeks to combat stigmas for people with disabilities— has announced the participants for its third annual Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities. The eight-week lab, which takes place from June 22 to August 12, will be offered in a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic (the 2020 lab was also held virtually) and consists of two tracks: Emerging and mid-career. Participants include people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health, and other disabilities.

The Jerusalem Post: ‘What Do You Pray For?’ challenges disability stereotypes

April 26, 2021

Prayer is an intensely personal form of communication and Ben Rosloff, a young man with autism, became fascinated by the idea of getting people to talk about their prayers, which led him to create a 16-part interview series, What Do You Pray For? The series can be viewed at the website of RespectAbility a non-governmental resource center that promotes Jewish inclusion, which helped Rosloff produce the series. He is a member of RespectAbility’s Jewish inclusion team, fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that Jews with disabilities can contribute their talents to the Jewish world.

Hollywood Reporter: Hollywood Grapples With Autism Portrayals Onscreen: “This Is a Responsibility You Need to Take Really Seriously”

February 27, 2021

Resources are available for industry players who want to represent disability authentically and ethically. “Because there is such limited representation of autism onscreen right now, every time there is representation it is going to be scrutinized, so do yourself a favor and make sure you are doing your research from multiple sources,” offers Lauren Appelbaum, VP for RespectAbility, which seeks to combat stigmas for people with disabilities. The organization works with companies like Netflix and Disney and individual filmmakers to provide resources and consultations — from script development to casting to site visits — that would better allow for the authentic portrayals of stories that include disability. It’s currently consulting on five projects that feature characters or actors on the autism spectrum. RespectAbility consultant Ava Rigelhaupt, a writer-performer who is on the autism spectrum, has talked to writers and producers who are developing shows that feature autistic characters. She shares her own experiences and offers notes about dialogue and insights into a character’s physicality, but she also points out that she alone cannot speak for the entire community: “There is a saying: When you meet one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.”

Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle: Disability advocate frames conversation about inclusion in Pittsburgh

February 25, 2021

In both his career as a lawyer and as “a student of human nature,” inclusion specialist Matan Koch has learned “we always do a little bit better when we realize what the benefit could be for us and our community, rather than framing it in terms of what we’re doing for them, for those people, the ones that don’t have access.” In celebration of Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month and Jewish Disability Advocacy Month, Koch, director of RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership at RespectAbility, joined representatives of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and Jewish Residential Services for a virtual conversation on Feb. 24.

Variety: RespectAbility Kicks Off Sundance Programs

January 28, 2021

RespectAbility will have a heavy presence at Sundance this year, with a lineup of virtual panels and discussions, all on digital Main Street. The disability advocacy group is presenting five conversations under the umbrella title the Accessibility & Inclusion Lab; two of the events are in collaboration with Film Independent. A goal is to encourage authentic representation of disabled people on screen, and to help change how audiences view people with disabilities. Another goal is to give filmmakers the tools to make films more accessible, both for disabled crew members and for audiences.

Hollywood Reporter: RespectAbility Sets Accessibility and Inclusion Lab Conversation Series at Sundance

January 22, 2021

RespectAbility— the nonprofit organization that seeks to combat stigmas for people with disabilities— has set a Sundance Film Festival conversation program with its Accessibility and Inclusion Lab. RespectAbility’s Lauren Appelbaum, who leads the nonprofit’s work in the entertainment industry, said, “We know that most filmmakers do not intentionally exclude people with disabilities — whether we are talking about directors, producers, actors or audience members. Our conversations, therefore, aim to create a bridge, showcasing how easy it can be to welcome disabled writers and crew, which then leads to more inclusive storylines.”

To Read More, Go Back To 2021 Annual Report Homepage

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