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Talent from the Walt Disney Company Bring the Magic of Storytelling to Next Generation of Storytellers

Los Angeles, CA, March 18 – After launching a new campaign to inspire the love of reading featuring a diverse group of talent from across the Disney family, Disney is shining the spotlight on two actresses with disabilities who are reading Disney books.

This is important, as almost seven million children in America have a disability; to see readers with disabilities represented in this campaign gives children with disabilities the confidence they can be part of the next generation of storytellers.

Kayla Cromer (Freeform’s Everything’s Gonna Be Okay), who is a neurodiverse actress and activist with ADD, dyslexia and dyscalculia, reads Snow Day for Groot, a Marvel property about the importance of friendship.

Shaylee Mansfield (Disney Channel’s Bunk’D and Disney+’s Noelle), who is a Deaf YouTuber turned into an actress, reads Ride the Waves, a Lilo and Stitch story.

By participating in this campaign, Cromer and Mansfield are empowering youth with disabilities to tell their own stories by serving as role models. Furthermore, the campaign’s PSA is voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, who herself has dyslexia, a common learning disability. Cromer and Mansfield join the ranks of Goldberg, Kelly Ripa, Ryan Seacrest and Angelica Ross, all of whom are reading books as part of virtual story times during this campaign.

“I am honored to be part of a campaign that brings books to children all over the country,” Mansfield said. “The fact that Disney asked me to tell a story in my own language is even more special to me. ASL is one of the many ways these magical stories can be shared.”

All videos are captioned to ensure more access for those who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Mansfield’s video shows her communicating in ASL, with a voice over for people unable to read or for those who have low vision. Following best practice, the voice over artist is someone that her family chose and her ASL interpreter was present at the voice over record session to ensure that the signs, voice over and captions are all time correctly.

In addition to producing these virtual story times, Disney Publishing Worldwide has donated millions of books to First Book, a nonprofit organization that puts new books and educational resources into the hands of educators who serve children from underserved communities throughout the U.S.

New videos will be posted every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at MagicOfStorytelling.com, as well as on Disney social media platforms, through March 31, 2021. Find virtual story times, donate books or register to get access to free and low-cost books and resources for the children you serve.

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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