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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 is the VP, Communications and Entertainment & News Media, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so all people with disabilities can fully participate in every aspect of community. As an individual with an acquired nonvisible disability – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – she works at the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. She regularly conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible for entertainment executives throughout the industry. Appelbaum partners with studios, production companies and writers’ rooms to create equitable and accessible opportunities to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the overall story-telling process. These initiatives increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people on screen, leading to systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities. She has consulted on more than 100 TV episodes and films with A&E, Bunim-Murray Productions, NBCUniversal, Netflix, ViacomCBS, and The Walt Disney Company, among others. She represents RespectAbility on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory Council, Disney+ Content Advisory Council, MTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative. She 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. She is a recipient of the 2020 Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award for this Lab. To reach her, email [email protected]

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