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Cast to the Future: Discovering Disabled Talent

Cast to the Future Discovering Disabled Talent

Disabled Characters: Who gets to write them? Who gets to play them?

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NDEAM Entertainment Media Summit: A Focus on the Future

This event is part of a larger series of events. Learn more:

Film Fatales and RespectAbility hosted a panel discussion about inclusive casting with casting consultant Ava Rigelhaupt, filmmaker Alaa Zabara (Salahy) and talent agent Gail Williamson (KMR Talent).

The question of who should tell stories of marginalized and underrepresented voices has been much discussed, sometimes leading to heated stances over artistic freedom, cultural appropriation and accusations of censorship. And yet, disabled stories are sorely lacking in representation. Twenty percent of people have a disability while on-screen representation hovers around three percent, with no meaningful change in the last five years. While more attention is being paid to hiring disabled actors for disabled roles, what about opportunities for disabled actors to play nondisabled characters? And who should be writing these roles? What are best practices for inclusive casting and accessible sets? This event was a deep dive into a conversation about inclusive casting for both visible and nonvisible disabilities, creating accessible sets, and ensuring authentic authorship.


  • Ava Rigelhaupt, writer, consultant, actress, public speaker and advocate for disability and autism representation in the entertainment industry
  • Gail Williamson, Talent Agent and and head of the Diversity Department at Kazarian / Measures / Ruskin & Assoc.
  • Alaa Zabara, independent Hard-of-Hearing Yemeni-American Director and Cinematographer
  • Moderated by Film Fatales member Khadifa Wong (Uprooted: The Journey of Jazz Dance)

Meet the Author

Eric Ascher

Eric Ascher is the Communications Associate for RespectAbility. He is responsible for supporting RespectAbility’s Vice President, Communications in developing and implementing advocacy efforts and communications of various types. Ascher manages RespectAbility’s social media channels, website and emails; organizes and develops webinars; and supervises Communications Fellows.

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