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#BornThisWay

WEBINAR: Hollywood, Media & Disability

Fighting Stigmas and Expanding Opportunities for People with Disabilities

Read the webinar transcript (COMING SOON)
Download the accessible PowerPoint
Watch the webinar on YouTube with live embedded captions

Featuring

Jenni Gold, editor, screenwriter, director and founder of Gold Pictures, Inc.
John Tucker, cast member of Emmy-award winning Born This Way and rap artist
Gail Williamson, talent agent and head of the Diversity Department at Kazarian/Measures/Ruskin & Associates

Moderated By Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility

We at RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and expanding opportunities for people with disabilities, have been working with several partners within the entertainment industry on the full inclusion of people with disabilities – in front and behind the camera. The webinar was part of the process of creating a Community of Practice to work on the closely connected issues of disability, diversity, inclusion, poverty and media.

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Four Oscar Nominations for Best Picture Go to Films with Disability Connections

Academy Award Oscar Statuettes

Photo by Toby Canham/Getty Images

Rockville, Md, Jan. 24 – Of the nine films nominated for Best Picture, four have themes or sub-plots related to disability.

For example, Manchester by the Sea includes themes of mental health, alcoholism and drug use. Likewise, Moonlight includes story lines surrounding drug addiction. Arrival, a science-fiction film, includes a child who dies from cancer.

Fences, a film that has received multiple accolades for its racially diverse themes, also includes a disability storyline. Lead character Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington)’s older brother Gabe Maxson (Mykelti Williamson) sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during World War II. Children in the neighborhood often torment Gabe. When Troy bails Gabe out of jail for disturbing the peace, Troy unknowingly signs a paper that routes half of Gabe’s pension to a psychiatric hospital, forcing Gabe to be institutionalized.

Williamson does not have a disability himself, which is quite common when it comes to casting actors portraying people with disabilities. The Ruderman White Paper on Disability in Television found that non-disabled actors on television play more than 95 percent of characters with disabilities.

When asked by the Los Angeles Times about playing the role of someone with a TBI, Williamson acknowledged the many variables and “different levels of injury and effect” of someone with a TBI.

In the full-length documentary category, Life, Animated, a film about Owen, a boy with Autism, was nominated. The film shows how Owen, a young man who was unable to speak as a child, and his father are able to connect using Disney animated films.

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Media Access Awards Honors Speechless, Born This Way for Normalizing Disability

Speechless' Cedric Yarbrough, Scott Silveri, Melvin Mar and Micah Fowler smiling and posing with Silveri and Mar's award

Speechless’ Cedric Yarbrough, Scott Silveri, Melvin Mar and Micah Fowler (Photo Credit: Michael Hansel)

Los Angeles – As Hollywood came together to celebrate people with disabilities, media creators recognized the importance of accurate representation of the largest minority in the U.S.

Scott Silveri’s new hit show on ABC, Speechless, which features a young man with cerebral palsy (Micah Fowler), won three awards including two for Silveri (Writers Guild of America West Evan Somers Memorial Award and SAG-AFTRA Disability Awareness Award along with director/producer Jake Kasdan and producer Melvin Mar).

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Season Finale of Diverse and Fabulous Emmy-Winner #BornThisWay Airs Tonight

A&E Renews Series for Third Season

Text: The Emmy-Award winning series returns: Born This Way with images of the castWashington, Sept. 27 – Following its Emmy win for outstanding unstructured reality show, Born This Way has been renewed by A&E for a third season. This is the first time a series starring a cast with disabilities has won an Emmy Award.

Produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, Born This Way, an unscripted reality show on A&E, follows the lives 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.

Show creator and Executive Producer Jonathan Murray, the innovator behind the first-ever reality-show, The Real World, and many other hit shows including Keeping Up with the Kardashians, credits the show’s positive message and groundbreaking vision of diversity on screen with the show’s success.

“In thinking about the show, we wanted to focus on the ability within the disability and I think that is what is exciting to see,” said Murray. “We are also very proud of the fact that our cast is very diverse. Born This Way is not only the first show to win an Emmy that stars people with disabilities – it also has a cast that includes people who are African AmericanHispanic and Asian. This is a breakthrough for those minority communities as well.”

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Born This Way #BTWChat: September 27

Join our ninth Twitter chat on September 27 at 9/8c!

Hosted by Lauren Appelbaum and Cara Liebowitz of RespectAbility, this Twitter chat will take a look at ideas explored in Born This Way by the young adults with Down syndrome and their parents. Following this chat, join us in live tweeting each episode of the second season, airing on A&E at 10/9c.

In the season two finale, Megan learns the hard way that taking care of a baby is not anything like she imagined it would be, Rachel finds romance on the road to fitness and Steven finally faces up to his feelings about Megan.

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Born This Way #BTWChat: September 20

Join our eighth Twitter chat on September 20 at 9/8c!

Hosted by Lauren Appelbaum and Cara Liebowitz of RespectAbility, this Twitter chat will take a look at ideas explored in Born This Way by the young adults with Down syndrome and their parents. Following this chat, join us in live tweeting each episode of the second season, airing on A&E at 10/9c.

During tonight’s #BTWchat, we take a look at achieving dreams! The first part focuses on Cristina’s dance competition & John’s new rap star successes. The second part focuses on Megan’s love life triangle with Brendan and Steven.

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Born This Way #BTWChat: September 13

Join our seventh Twitter chat on September 13 at 9/8c!

Hosted by Lauren Appelbaum and Cara Liebowitz of RespectAbility, this Twitter chat will take a look at ideas explored in Born This Way by the young adults with Down syndrome and their parents. Following this chat, join us in live tweeting each episode of the second season, airing on A&E at 10/9c.

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The Emmys: Seeing African Americans with Disabilities in Hollywood

Washington, Sept. 12 – For the first time in history, a TV show staring people with disabilities has won an Emmy Award – and one of the stars, John, is African American! The glass ceiling-breaking show is Born This Way, A&E Network’s critically-acclaimed and award-winning original docuseries, which airs Tuesday nights at 10/9c. Beating out five other series including previous winners Deadliest Catch and InterventionBorn This Way won the Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Series at the Creative Arts Emmy Celebration Sunday evening.

The show documents real life as John continues to pursue his dream of becoming a rap artist and entertainer, but has a lot of life skills to master before he is ready to live on his own.

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The Emmys: Seeing Hispanics with Disabilities in Hollywood

Washington, Sept. 12 – For the first time in history, a TV show staring people with disabilities has won an Emmy Award– and one of the stars, Cristina, is Hispanic! The glass ceiling-breaking show is Born This Way, A&E Network’s critically acclaimed and award-winning original docuseries, which airs Tuesday nights at 10/9c. Beating out five other series including previous winners Deadliest Catch and Intervention, Born This Way won the Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Series at the Creative Arts Emmy Celebration Sunday evening.

The show documents real life as Cristina and her fiancée Angel continue to look forward to their wedding, but have a lot of life skills to master before they are ready to live on their own.

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BREAKING NEWS! Glass Ceiling Broken at Emmy Awards!

First Series Starring Cast with Disabilities, Born This Way, Wins

Washington, Sept. 11 – For the first time ever, a series starring a cast with disabilities has won an Emmy Award. Born This Way, which is in its second season on A&E, won for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Series beating out five other series including previous winners Deadliest Catch and Intervention. In addition, two episodes from Born This Way were nominated for Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program but lost out to HBO’s Project Greenlight.

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.

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