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New Disability Screen Office Opens in Canada to Support and Amplify Creative Voices of Disabled Canadians

A person walking down a sidewalk with a white cane. Logo for AMI. Text: Disability Screen OfficeToronto, May 6 – Accessible Media Inc. (AMI), in partnership with the Canadian Media Fund (CMF) and Telefilm Canada, is launching a Disability Screen Office (DSO) in Canada to eliminate accessibility barriers and support and amplify disabled creatives.

“It became apparent that there is currently no single program, incentive, or regulation that can cause the screen industry to be fully inclusive for people with disabilities,” said Andrew Morris, Manager, Independent Production, AMI-tv. “The only way to create meaningful real opportunities for people with disabilities in the media industry is to address the systemic barriers relating to education, industry regulations, insufficient and/or inaccurate representation, public beliefs and attitudes, and full accessibility throughout the media industry.”

The DSO will provide services that:

  • increase accurate and meaningful disability representation on and off screen throughout the Canadian media landscape.
  • expose and eliminate accessibility barriers to create a more inclusive and accessible industry for all.
  • support and amplify the creative voices of Canadians with disabilities nationally and internationally.

RespectAbility Entertainment Lab alumna Julia Skikavich was involved in some of the early conversations and roundtable consultations in the lead up to the establishment of the DSO.

Julia Skikavich headshot

Julia Skikavich

“I’m proud to have played a very small part, alongside the leadership of AMI, in the huge effort of many that’s led to the establishment of the DSO,” said Skikavich. “This is an important first step in supporting the voices of Canadians with disabilities in the TV/film industry and increasing representation and inclusivity on- and off-screen. The hope is to create a more accessible industry for all, and I’m really looking forward to helping build and participate in the programming and the work that’s going to come out of our homegrown DSO, which I know is going to amplify the voices of Canadians with disabilities nationally and internationally.”

More announcements in relation to the DSO will be coming out soon, with pending programming including an innovative workshop targeted at showrunners that aims to make writers’ room more accessible to disabled writers and the creation of a bilingual Best Practices Guide for Disability Engagement in the Canadian Film and Television Industry.

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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