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Summer 2017 Fellows standing or seated in wheelchairs, smiling and posing for the camera

Communications and Stigma Fellowship

The National Leadership Program: Fellowship in Communications and Stigma

Communications Fellows on the set of Meet the Press during a tour of NBC Washington Bureau

RespectAbility’s stigma-busting Communications Fellowship is on the frontline of fighting prejudice, misinformation and low expectations. Fellows work on a team to create and deliver positive images, stories and best practices. We identify, test, shape and deliver materials that are leveraged in our proactive outreach to employers, the media, thought leaders, Hollywood, elite schools, policy makers and political candidates. We are nonpartisan in our approach, do not lobby and follow guidelines for nonprofit organizations. We focus in particular on the promotion of best practices and will assign fellows who are hoping to enter public relations, new media, communications or media relations to work in this area. Much of our stigma reduction work is associated with outreach to Hollywood and employers.

Our program is fully accessible for people with disabilities and offers full-time in-house job coaching, skills development and networking opportunities. Assistive technology and personal care support are available as needed.

Communications Fellows are assigned to one or two areas of outreach based on interest and skills. All Fellows have real work assignments – no learning coffee preferences! We have a fully accessible and warm office, and are located on the metro line just outside of Washington, D.C. Paid ($15/hour) and stipend opportunities available.


Journalism: Hollywood & Employer Outreach / Stigma

Jonathan Murray speaking to RespectAbility Fellows

Jonathan Murray, creator of The Real World and Born This Way, speaking to RespectAbility Fellows

While one-in five-people have a disability, fewer than two percent of scripted television characters (15 people) have disabilities. Furthermore, most people with disabilities in film and TV are played by actors without disabilities and are shown in a negative, inaccurate light. Fellows also will contribute to our #RespectTheAbility campaign, which highlights the benefits of inclusive employment, including the better bottom line that results from recognizing the talent of people with a variety of abilities. Journalism / Stigma Fellows will leave the Fellowship with a minimum of five published clips. They will:

  • Write blogs, press releases and news articles to promote positive, accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on TV and in film.
  • Research and publish profiles on companies committing to hiring and retaining people with disabilities at all levels and individuals with disabilities who are extremely successful in their chosen career.
  • Help create a community of practice in Los Angeles coordinating with multiple partners to reduce the stigma against people with disabilities in Hollywood. Duties include materials development, database development and maintenance, online research and event planning.

Communications & Advocacy: Social Media and Website Management

This Fellowship is good for students who are interested in learning how social media influences society or who are interested in website management, photo editing or graphic design. Our social media campaigns highlight the benefits of inclusive employment and the role Hollywood plays in influencing that. Social Media Fellows also have the opportunity for writing assignments that Stigma Fellows have. Prospective Fellows should be proficient or have the desire to increase their skills in one or more of these areas:

  • Social media outreach for business (mainly Facebook and Twitter) including analytics.
  • Website management using WordPress.
  • Photo editing and graphic design using Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign (potential for video editing opportunities as well).

Political Outreach

Voters with disabilities are systematically ignored and only 27 percent of polling locations are fully accessible. Our blog,, covers candidates’ and politicians’ progress in addressing disability employment issues. Fellows create news stories and are a part of the team for nonpartisan and educational candidate and grassroots outreach. Fellows interested in political outreach should have good writing and editing skills and an interest in politics. This fellowship is available leading up to the elections in 2020. Applicants interested in political outreach also will be assigned to Employer / Hollywood outreach. They will:

  • Encourage candidates to complete the #PwDsVote Candidate Questionnaire and promote their responses to the media and other interested parties in the candidate’s state.
  • Coordinate outreach with volunteers from all 50 states and assist with event planning.
  • Write blogs, press releases and news articles covering candidates’ positions on disability employment from a nonpartisan point of view.

Who We Want

The National Leadership Program is ideal for people who want to gain media and communications skills and contacts while making a positive difference for people with disabilities. We are looking for creative, results-driven individuals who want to achieve breakthrough results while getting hands-on experience. The fellowship is for college and graduate students, as well as for people transitioning into the workforce for the first time or back into the workforce after a break.

Fellowship Duties

Our current Fellows spend a great deal of time working on these issues through social media outreach and analytics, materials development, media pitching, database development and maintenance and event planning. As a result, fellows gain direct experience of working with the media, political campaigns, Hollywood and PR companies, including leaders in these fields.

The fellows will work closely with our National Leadership Program Director and Communications Director. Individual projects will be assigned based on an individual’s unique skill set and their own ability to “bring something to the table.” Tasks might include writing blog posts, utilizing social media, designing graphics, editing photos and videos, attending political campaign events, and visiting inclusive employers. Stigma reduction fellows will join supervisors at workshops and webinars that pertain to stigma, national politics and communications.

Each fellow will receive as many opportunities as possible to learn new skills, network and gain direct experiences. In addition to hands-on work experiences, all fellows will participate in special presentations by guest speakers and intensive strategic communications workshops. A career plan will be developed by each fellow that will enable him or her to gain appropriate workplace experience while contributing directly and measurably to RespectAbility’s impact.

Upon the completion of the fellowship program, applicants can expect to come away with excellent experience in the field of strategic communications and policy, fair knowledge of issues for people with disabilities, and leadership skills to help them grow into confident advocates.

Important Details for Applicants

  • Excellent communication and organizational skills are strongly preferred, and Fellows should exhibit leadership skills to complete their own projects.
  • Strong preference for college juniors and above.
  • Commit for a minimum of nine weeks.
  • Hours are 9-5. Summer Fellows are required to work a minimum of 35 hours per week and Spring/Fall Fellows should be able to work at least 20 hours a week, though 40 hours per week is preferred.
  • There is no tuition cost to do the Fellowship, and stipend Fellows will be awarded $300 a month as a transportation reimbursement.
  • A limited number of paid Fellowships will receive $15/hr for a total of 360 hours of work.
  • The Fellowship takes place in Rockville, Maryland. The office is a short distance from the White Flint Metro Station on the Red Line.
  • Your cover letter must explain why this Fellowship in particular is of interest to you and why you believe you have the skills, focus and independent drive to make a positive difference in your time with us at RespectAbility.

RespectAbility provides equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, veteran status or genetics. In addition to federal law requirements, RespectAbility complies with applicable state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation and training.

Fill out the linked Google Doc Form and send your resume and cover letter to Ben Spangenberg at to apply for any of our National Leadership Program opportunities! If you are applying for a paid Fellowship, explain in your cover letter how you can advance diversity and intersectionality issues.






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HQ: 11333 Woodglen Drive, #102, Rockville, MD 20852
West Coast: 350 S Bixel Street
Los Angeles CA 90017

Office Number: 202-517-6272


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