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Bio – Children’s Lab 2022 Team

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum, RespectAbility Senior Vice President, Communications and Entertainment & News Media and Lab Founder

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Lauren Appelbaum, Senior Vice President of Communications

Lauren Appelbaum (she/her) is the Senior Vice President, Communications and Entertainment & News Media, of RespectAbility, a diverse, disability-led nonprofit that works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities, and that advances policies and practices that empower disabled people to have a better future. 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, writers’ rooms, and news organizations 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 9Story Media Group, A&E, Bunim-Murray Productions, DreamWorks Animation, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Nickelodeon, ViacomCBS, The Walt Disney Company, and Warner Bros. Discovery, among others. She represents RespectAbility on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory CouncilDisney+ Content Advisory CouncilMTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative.

Appelbaum also increases hiring initiatives of people with disabilities behind the camera and enriches the pool of disabled talent in Hollywood by 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 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.

Appelbaum is a sought-after expert and has been quoted by many national publications including Associated PressDeadlineThe Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, The Los Angeles Jewish JournalThe New York Times, RealScreenReutersTabletUSA Today, Variety, and The Washington Post. She has spoken on panels at the Association of Health Care Journalists Conference, ComNet, RealScreen Summit, Sundance Film Festival and SXSW, among others.

Born and raised in the Philadelphia area, Appelbaum has a master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Syracuse University; she also has undergraduate degrees from Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. She serves on several national and local nonprofit boards. Appelbaum currently lives in Maryland with her husband, daughter and dog. She travels nationally, often to the Los Angeles area.

Contact Lauren Appelbaum

Reach Appelbaum at [email protected] or on Twitter @laurenappelbaum.

Vanni Le

Vanni Le, RespectAbility Entertainment Outreach Program Manager

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Vanni Le

Vanni Le is the first-ever Entertainment Outreach Program Manager at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. She focuses on fighting stigmas by ensuring authentic representations of people with disabilities in film and television. Le brings brand strategy and program management experience from both the entertainment and nonprofit fields, having previously worked at the Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, March of Dimes, and most recently A+E Networks. [continue reading…]

Lesley Hennen

Lesley Hennen, RespectAbility Entertainment and News Media Associate

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Lesley Hennen, Entertainment and News Media Associate

Lesley Hennen (she/her) is the Entertainment and News Media Associate at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to fight stigmas and advance opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. Hennen brings a professional background in Communications and PR, as well as expertise in script consulting and independent film production to the team at RespectAbility, where she works with key players in the Entertainment and News Media industries to promote more authentic representations of people with disabilities on-screen, as well as more inclusive working environments for people with disabilities behind the camera. [continue reading…]

Leah Romond

Leah Romond, Senior Production Advisor

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, 2020, 2021, and 2022

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Leah Romond

Leah Romond is an attorney, producer and advocate for full disability inclusion in film and television production.

Romond’s recent project, Best Summer Ever, is a feature-length original musical created entirely by an integrated cast and crew of talent with and without disabilities. The film was slated to begin its festival run with a SXSW 2020 World Premiere, and was awarded the SXSW Final Draft Screenwriters Award. While the festival run has been halted indefinitely due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Romond continues to work toward authentic disability representation in front of and behind the camera.

Jacquill Moss

Jacquill Moss, Entertainment Media Program Coordinator

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Jacquill Moss, Entertainment Media Program Coordinator

Jacquill Moss is the Entertainment Media Program Coordinator at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to fight stigmas and advance opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

After being selected through RespectAbility as one of 10 participants of the WarnerMedia Access Early Career Bootcamp, Moss was recruited for the Entertainment Media Program Coordinator position. Born with nocturnal epilepsy, this position not only aligned with Moss’ diverse skillset but also his lived disability experience, passion for advocacy and evolving the narrative. Outside of RespectAbility, Moss works on bringing awareness to unhoused youth, mental health and foster children to support those in need.

In his spare time, Moss enjoys music production, freelance photography and videography. A huge fan of all aspects of cinema, Moss also volunteers yearly at the Sundance Film Festival and has worked with many high-profile brands and clients while serving as a freelance videographer.

Isabella Vargas

Entertainment Media and Lab Apprentice

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Isabella Vargas

Isabella Vargas is an Entertainment and News Media Apprentice in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Spring 2022. RespectAbility is a national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Vargas is a filmmaker and community organizer who grew up chronically ill in the Hispanic heart of South Florida. Chronic illness was her perfect excuse to devour every movie and book she could possibly find. [continue reading…]

Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.

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43 Town & Country Drive
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Fredericksburg, VA 22405

Office Number: 202-517-6272

Email: [email protected]

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