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#BornThisWay

Cristina Sanz: First Hispanic with a Disability As Part of Ensemble Cast to Be on an Emmy Award-Winning Show

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. [continue reading…]

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.

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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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Emmy Award-Winning Show Highlights ABLE Accounts and Financial Security for People with Disabilities

Born This Way Nominated for Six 2017 Emmy Awards including Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program

Cast of Born This Way smiling and posing for the camera

Born This Way Cast

Rockville, Md., July 18 – For the cast of Emmy award-winning Born This Way and others with disabilities, acquiring a sense of financial stability is important in being able to live an independent life.

Born This Way, a reality TV show just nominated for six Emmy awards, including again for the 2017 Emmy Award for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program, which the show won in 2016, is centered on seven young adults with Down syndrome living their day-to-day lives, all while pursuing their passions, following their dreams and defying stigmas. In the final episode of season three, Megan and her mother Kris learn about opening an A Better Life Experience (ABLE) account. ABLE accounts are savings accounts designed specifically for people with disabilities and their families to aid them in financial independence.

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Born This Way Highlights Importance of Inclusive Education

Watch #BornThisWay on A&E, Tuesday at 10:00 p.m. ET. 

View Education Resources on Disability Issues

Rockville, Md., June 27 — In the U.S., schools were not required to provide special education until 1975. Today, the fight for inclusive education remains a constant battle for parents and students. Born This Way, a reality television show that stars seven diverse young adults with Down syndrome, shines the spotlight on the importance of inclusive education and the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process.

Ensuring children with disabilities receive the education and training they need to succeed is vitally important. Nationally, only 65 percent of students with disabilities graduate high school each year compared to 86 percent of student without disabilities. That means there is 21-point gap in outcomes. Furthermore, only seven percent of students with disabilities graduate college. As such, educators have a critical role to play in empowering more students with disabilities to succeed.

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Talking Positively about Sex and Disability

Watch #BornThisWay on A&E, Tuesday at 10:00 p.m. ET. 

View Sexual Education Resources for People with Disabilities.

Rockville, Md., June 19 – Sexual education for young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities is extremely important. Born This Way, a reality television show that stars seven diverse young adults with Down syndrome, is doing its part to highlight this.

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, an average of 59,000 adults with disabilities are raped or sexually assaulted each year. Approximately half of all adults with cognitive disabilities will experience 10 or more sexually abusive incidents in their lifetime.

The upcoming episode of Born This Way on June 20, 2017 highlights the importance of sexual education as it relates to dating and marriage. The cast speaks with Terri Couwenhoven MS, CSE, a well known sex educator and author. Couwenhoven specializes in the design and implementation of sexuality programs and resources for people with cognitive disabilities, their parents and the professionals who support them.

In coordination with Couwenhoven, RespectAbility has released a lengthy guide featuring resources for sexual education for children, teenagers and adults with disabilities, with a focus on those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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