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#BornThisWay

Born This Way’s Emmy Nominations Prove Disability is a Winning Theme

Born This Way cast and producers celebrating their Emmy win on stage at the Emmy Awards. Executive Producer Jonathan Murray holds the Emmy Award.

Born This Way cast and producers celebrating their Emmy win in 2016.

Los Angeles, July 16 – A&E Network’s critically acclaimed award-winning original docuseries Born This Way keeps adding up honors, with four more Emmy nominations this year, bringing the total to 13 nominations and three wins including the Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Series in 2016, and for Casting for a Reality Program and Cinematography for a Reality Program in 2017.

Produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, Born This Way, an unscripted reality show, follows a group of seven young adults with Down syndrome along with their family and friends in Southern California. Because its focus is on showing their everyday lives, including employment, efforts for independent housing, loves and more, Born this Way breaks down stigmas surrounding disability.

This year, Born This Way is nominated once again for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program, Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program and Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program, as well as Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program. [click to continue…]

New A&E Documentary Special by Marlee Matlin Aims to Change Misperceptions about Deaf Families

Follows Season 4 of Born This Way, unscripted reality show breaking down disability stigmas, which was nominated for four Creative Arts Emmy Awards last weekend

Los Angeles, California, Sept. 10 – On the heels of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards this weekend, a new documentary special will air on A&E on Wednesday. Executive produced by Academy Award-winner Marlee Matlin, Deaf Out Loud follows three predominantly deaf families as they raise their children in a hearing world. With many differing opinions about how deaf children should be raised swirling in the social consciousness, these families work to forge their own paths forward and combat the daily social stigmas many deaf people face.

Misconceptions exist about deaf individuals – from schooling, to employment and raising a family. Shows like Deaf Out Loud aim to change these misperceptions and has the potential to bring awareness and better understanding about people who are deaf. This show delves into the various ways Deaf culture is expressed and embraced in the United States. The three families will show viewers the diversity of Deaf culture today, and how it differs from hearing cultures.

“People of all backgrounds need to see positive representations of themselves, both as people with satisfying personal lives and as people who can perform successfully in the workplace,” Executive Producer Jonathan Murray said. “Those positive images will change for the better the way the greater society sees people who are deaf and those with disabilities, opening up more opportunities for them.” [click to continue…]

Emmy Award-Winning Show Born This Way Highlights Businesses Owned By People With Disabilities

Rockville, Md., Aug. 29 – Sean McElwee and Megan Bomgaars are talented designers who have sold products featuring their designs to make a living. These entrepreneurs also happen to have Down syndrome.

McElwee and Bomgaars are cast members on Born This Way, an Emmy award-winning unscripted reality television program created by Bunim/Murray Productions and airing on A&E Network. Born This Way stars seven young adults with Down syndrome and their families, and showcases their lives in a positive, accurate way. The fourth season of the hit docuseries highlights McElwee’s and Bomgaars’ businesses, both of which have made remarkable progress in recent months. [click to continue…]

First-Ever Community Resource Guide for Residents of Long Beach with Disabilities Released

Long Beach Resource Guide Cover

Download PDF of Guide in English or Spanish

Long Beach, Nov. 16 – More than 20 community leaders gathered for dinner at disability-owned 4th and Olive Wednesday night to celebrate the release of the first-ever comprehensive catalog of resources for residents of Long Beach living with disabilities. The guide was made possible by the Long Beach Community Foundation and a grant from the Knight Foundation.

The community resource list guide, which is available in both English and Spanish, is part of a larger project to increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities in Long Beach. Long Beach is home to more than 46,000 working-age people with disabilities, while local schools teach more than 9,000 students with disabilities. Currently, only 21 percent of Long Beach residents with disabilities have jobs in the community compared to the national average of 34 percent.

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Cristina Sanz: First Hispanic with a Disability to Win an Emmy Award

headshot of Cristina Sanz wearing a blue top

Cristina Sanz

Rockville, Md., Oct. 15 – Fans of the hit A&E docu-series Born this Way know Cristina Sanz as a lovable, fun and family-oriented dancer and romantic. Last year, Sanz became the first Hispanic woman with a disability to win an Emmy award.

When Born This Way won the Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Series last year, it made history for being not only the first show to win an Emmy that stars people with disabilities but also for having a cast that includes people with disabilities who are African American, Hispanic and Asian.

“Even though people of all races, genders and sexual orientation have disabilities, the media tends to only show white characters,” Born This Way Producer Jonathan Murray said. “John, Cristina and Elena have Down syndrome, but they also are the first individuals from the African American, Hispanic and Asian community with a disability to earn an Emmy. This is a breakthrough for those minority communities as well.”

Sanz also did something that her parents never imagined—she moved out of the house, works at two jobs and became engaged to her boyfriend of five years, Angel.

“I will not wake up waiting for my daughter to come back from a date like my mother did for me,” her mother, Beatriz Sanz, said she used to think. But, Cristina Sanz is the first of her siblings to be getting married now.

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Cristina Sanz: la primera hispana con una discapacidad en ganar un premio Emmy

headshot of Cristina Sanz wearing a blue top

Cristina Sanz

Rockville, Md., 15 de octubre – Los fans de la exitosa serie documental de A&E Somos así conocen a Cristina Sanz como una bailarina adorable, divertida y romántica que ama a su familia. El año pasado, Sanz se convirtió en la primera mujer hispana con una discapacidad en ganar un premio Emmy.

Cuando Somos así ganó el Emmy al Mejor Programa Reality no Estructurado el año pasado, pasó a la historia no solo por ser el primer programa en ganar un Emmy donde los protagonistas son personas con discapacidades, sino por tener un reparto que incluye a personas con discapacidades que son afroamericanas, hispanas y asiáticas.

“Si bien las personas de cualquier raza, género y orientación sexual tienen discapacidades, los medios tienden a mostrar únicamente a personajes blancos”, expresó el productor de Somos así, Jonathan Murray. “John, Cristina y Elena tienen síndrome de Down, pero también son las primeras personas de las comunidades afroamericana, hispana y asiática con una discapacidad en ganar un Emmy. Esto representa un avance importante para esas comunidades minoritarias también”.

Sanz también hizo algo que sus padres nunca imaginaron: se fue a vivir sola, tiene dos trabajos y se comprometió con su novio de hace cinco años, Angel.

“No me despertaré esperando que mi hija regrese de una cita como hizo mi mamá conmigo”, es lo que solía pensar su madre, Beatriz Sanz. Pero ahora Cristina Sanz es la primera de sus hermanas que se va a casar. [click to continue…]

Seanese: A Talk with Sean and Sandra McElwee of A&E’s Born This Way

All of the fellows and staff standing in a large group against the wall with the RespectAbility logo all over it

Sean and Sandra McElwee with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., Oct. 7 – Sean and Sandra McElwee walked into the conference room and handed out brightly colored brochures for Seanese, Sean’s new t-shirt company, to RespectAbility staff and fellows on Wednesday morning. Sean asked a few Fellows what their favorite shirt design was as they looked excitedly at the brightly colored sayings in Sean’s trademark language.

Sean and Sandra had a busy week visiting the Washington, D.C., area, which included lobbying for the National Down Syndrome Society on Capitol Hill and participating in the Northern Virginia Buddy Walk. They also visited the site of the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War.

“That’s where the first civil rights battle was fought,” Sandra said.

The battle for Sean’s civil rights started when he was born, and the doctors’ first words to Sandra were, “I’m sorry.” Sandra thought Sean was dying when they said that.

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Emmy Nominees Include People with Disabilities

Authentic Disability Representation Necessary to Ensure Largest Minority is Included

Emmy TrophyLos Angeles, Calif., Sept. 15 – As Hollywood celebrates Emmy season last weekend and this weekend, it’s important to highlight the several nominees with disabilities. In contrast to the Academy Awards earlier this year, no known actor with a disability was nominated for an Oscar. Including authentic disability in the diversity conversation is important to ensure that Hollywood does not leaves out the largest minority in the U.S.

Creative Arts Emmy Awards

Last weekend during the Creative Arts Emmy Awards presentation at the Microsoft Theater, several nominations were for individuals with a disability or for a show with a disability theme.

Streaming service Netflix came out with a hit new show – Stranger Things. The series was nominated for multiple awards this year, including “Outstanding Drama Series,” “Outstanding Supporting Actress” and “Outstanding Supporting Actor.” Actor Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin in the series, has cleidocranial dysplasia. The genetic disorder affects the development of a person’s bones and teeth.

In documentaries, Sam Neill, narrator of Wild New Zealand and Emmy nominee for “Outstanding Narrator,” had a speech impediment as a child.

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Series Starring Cast with Disabilities Continues to Break Glass Ceiling

Born This Way Takes Home Two More Emmy’s for Cinematography and First-Ever Emmy for Casting

An African American man and a white woman dressed in a tux and gown back stage

Born This Way’s John Tucker and Rachel Osterbach back stage after they presented awards in three categories at the Emmy’s Creative Arts Awards.

Los Angeles, Calif., Sept. 11 – A&E Network’s critically acclaimed and award-winning original docuseries Born This Way’s honors keep adding up – showing that disability is a winning theme. This series starring a cast with disabilities, which received six Emmy nominations this year, won two Emmy’s at Saturday night’s Creative Arts Emmy Awards for Casting for a Reality Program and Cinematography for a Reality Program – after bringing home the Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Series in 2016.

Produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, Born This Way, an unscripted reality show on A&E, follows a group of seven young adults with Down syndrome along with their family and friends in Southern California. Because its focus is on showing their everyday lives, including employment, efforts for independent housing, loves and more, Born this Way breaks down stigmas surrounding disability.

[click to continue…]

Importance of Diversity on Television

Real-Life Lessons from Real World Creator Jonathan Murray

All of the fellows and staff standing in a large group against the wall with the RespectAbility logo all over it

Jonathan Murray with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., Aug. 22 – Jonathan Murray is widely credited for being the father of reality television and creative hand behind some of the most successful reality shows ever made. He has nurtured the reality TV industry, and over time has created a space where underrepresented groups and individuals can be recognized and appreciated.

When Murray took the risk of putting a diverse group of real people on TV in his first show, The Real World, in 1992, he facilitated progress in the diversity agenda.

Jonathan Murray speaking to RespectAbility Fellows

Jonathan Murray speaking to RespectAbility Fellows

He captured something new and something real that no one was used to seeing because of his own life experiences. Murray grew up in an area that did not have much diversity.

“The first time I saw someone who looked different from me was on TV,” Murray said, illustrating the importance of showing diverse individuals on television.

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