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Hollywood Inclusion

Individuals with Autism Overcome Challenges in the Workplace

Rockville, Maryland, May 9 – I watched Lauren struggle at work. She had poor social skills. She talked obsessively about roller coasters and her siblings’ engagements and subsequent weddings. She had trouble understanding other people’s emotions. She didn’t look at you when you spoke to her. She was very sensitive to loud noises; she had to be warned of fire drills and left the area ahead of everyone else. She had trouble expressing what she needed. She flapped her hands when she struggled to articulate what she was trying to say. Her sense of touch was poor; she couldn’t tell when clothes were damp or dry. Most distressing, she rarely received credit for her hard work; only her mistakes were recognized and never forgotten. She was treated unfairly. She was too smart for her own good. She had been a laundry aide for nine years. Lauren has Asperger’s syndrome, which is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She overcame adversity by trying her best and being herself.

Freddie Highmore as Dr. Shaun Murphy in a labcoat

Freddie Highmore as Dr. Shaun Murphy on ABC’s “The Good Doctor”

I thought that because I have a disability and had family members who have disabilities, that I understood all disabilities. That is not true. I did not understand why Lauren was making inappropriate comments, not listening to understand what I was trying to say and making my day harder than it needed to be sometimes. I did not know why she was behaving the way she did. I would not understand any of her behaviors until I watched ABC’s “The Good Doctor” and I saw Freddie Highmore’s Dr. Shaun Murphy behave in the same manner. [click to continue…]

Disability Group Inks Deal with Hollywood Heavyweight

RespectAbility and Norman Lear Center Unite to Help Hollywood Include People with Disabilities

HH&S' Director Kate Folb in between RespectAbility's President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi and Communications Director Lauren Appelbaum, all standing and smiling, in front of a picture of Norman Lear

HH&S’ Director Kate Folb in between RespectAbility’s President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi and Communications Director Lauren Appelbaum

Los Angeles, Calif., April 18 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, announces a new partnership with Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S), a project of the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center. The partnership will help educate, inform and support the success of the movie/TV industry in its work to ensure that people with disabilities are included on both sides of the camera in the stories that Hollywood tells. HH&S provides entertainment industry professionals with accurate and timely information for storylines on health, safety and national security. Like RespectAbility, HH&S recognizes the profound impact that entertainment media have on individual knowledge and behavior – ultimately impacting society and lives at large.

“We’re delighted to be working with RespectAbility to help inform and inspire the frequency and accuracy of portrayals of people with disabilities in TV and film,” said Kate Folb, the director of HH&S.

HH&S offers several resources, including quick facts, briefings and consultations with experts, case examples, panel discussions about timely health issues, a quarterly newsletter with health updates called Real to Reel and an expanding list of tip sheets written specifically for writers and producers. The broad range of topics includes disability-specific topics autism and mental health. Some of the TV shows they have assisted include The Fosters, The Good Doctor, Grey’s Anatomy, Orange Is the New Black, Speechless, Switched at Birth and many more.

The creation of this partnership would not have been possible without the financial support of The California Endowment. “Visibility and representation matters,” said Jose L. Plaza, who manages the grant for The California Endowment. “We know that accurate and positive portrayals of diverse people with disabilities will not only empower and educate viewers and program creators but will ultimately lead to a more inclusive, responsive and healthier society.”

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First of Its Kind Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit Offers Entertainment Professionals Facts & Sources 

CONTACT: Lauren Appelbaum,, 202-591-0703

Download the PDF or accessible Word document or view online. Also, view our PPT to learn more.

Reality TV Pioneer Jonathan Murray, former Presidential appointee and inclusion expert Steven James Tingus, film executive Delbert Whetter, RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Hollywood, Health & Society Director Kate Folb, Top Model/Actor Nyle DiMarco and California Endowment’s Jose Plaza led the March 20 breakfast discussion about the path to inclusion of people with disabilities

A group of people seated in chairs and wheelchairs and standing smiling and posing for the camera

Back Row: Delbert Whetter, Richard Ray, Nyle DiMarco, Jonathan Murray, Cindy Chu, Hasan Foster, Kate Folb, Jose Plaza; Front Row: Steven James Tingus, Lauren Appelbaum, Tatiana Lee, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Debbie Fink

Los Angeles, Calif., March 20 – As entertainment professionals across all platforms work to become more inclusive of minorities, RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization that fights stigma and advances opportunities for people with disabilities, announces the launch of “The Hollywood Disability Toolkit: The RespectAbility Guide to Inclusion in the Entertainment Industry.” The toolkit, which is available online for free, offers Hollywood professionals the facts and sources they need to get disability inclusion right.

The Hollywood Disability Toolkit: The RespectAbility Guide to Inclusion in the Entertainment IndustryA first of its kind primer for entertainment professionals, it covers a wide array of key issues all in one easy to read place. A Disability FAQ covers topics from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the definition of a disability to concrete steps to ensure inclusivity and sample inclusion language. The FAQ also covers resources for hiring employees with disabilities and tax and other incentives that employers have to hire people with disabilities.

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Actor/Model and Deaf Activist Nyle DiMarco Joins in Launch of Historic “Hollywood Toolkit” to Help Industry Achieve Goals of Equitable Hiring & Authentic Representation of Disabilities



John Stodder, Tower26, (213) 393-42190


Actor/Model and Deaf Activist Nyle DiMarco Joins in Launch of Historic “Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit” to Help Industry Achieve Goals of Equitable Hiring & Authentic Representation of Disabilities
Nyle DiMarco sitting in a car

Nyle DiMarco

Reality TV Pioneer Jonathan Murray, RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Hollywood, Health & Society Director Kate Folb and California Endowment’s Jose Plaza to lead March 20 breakfast discussion about the path to inclusion of people with disabilities.

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For First Time, Frances McDormand Calls for Full Inclusion at the Academy Awards

  • Best Actress in a Leading Role makes call for more inclusion.
  • Authentic representation of disability wins Best Live Action Short.
  • Best Picture Winner goes to film with actor playing a disability she doesn’t have.
  • Diversity and inclusion segment omits people with disabilities.
Frances McDormand holding an Oscar giving a speech on stage

Frances McDormand

Los Angeles, Calif., March 5 – In a historic call for more information, Academy Award winner Frances McDormand called for an inclusion rider in contracts – a provision that ensures diversity and inclusion in not only the cast of a Hollywood project, but also the crew. The result can lead to a Hollywood A-lister ensuring gender, racial, LGBTQ and disability equality via his or her contracts.

“For those of you asking about the #InclusionRider, it’s designed to ensure equitable hiring in supportive roles for women, POC [people of color], the LGBT community, & people w/disabilities,” the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative tweeted. Stacy Smith, its Founder and Director, previously talked about this concept during a 2016 TED Talk.

An inclusion rider “has always been available to all – everybody who does a negotiation on a film – which means you can ask for or demand at least 50 percent diversity in not only the casting but the crew.” McDormand, who won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, told The Hollywood Reporter backstage after the Oscars. “The fact that I just learned that after 35 years in the film business – we aren’t going back.”

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Diversity and Inclusion in Hollywood Breakfast

Date: Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Time: 8:30 A.M. Breakfast was provided.
Location: Glendale, CA
Contact: Lauren Appelbaum, or 202-591-0703

headshot of Jonathan Murray wearing a gray striped shirt and facing the camera color photo

Jonathan Murray

Jonathan Murray of Bunim/Murray hosted this breakfast conversation. Murray has created and executive produced some of the industry’s most diverse, innovative, unscripted, entertainment television programs including Emmy-winning Born This Way (A&E), which documents the lives of diverse young adults with Down Syndrome and their families. Murray serves on the Board of Directors for RespectAbility.

RespectAbility’s focus is on the inclusion of diverse people with disabilities within the entertainment industry. As such, we unveiled a new resource guide for disability inclusion. This toolkit is for entertainment professionals wishing to ensure they are as inclusive of people with disabilities as possible. Email with questions or visit to view the toolkit.

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Deborah Calla Serves as Role Model for Inclusion During  Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month

Deborah Calla smiling for the camera

Deborah Calla

Rockville, Md., Feb. 16 – Deborah Calla is a Brazilian-born producer, writer and director. Calla is best known in the disability community for reviving the Media Access Awards (MAA). Her involvement in the disabilities movement and social justice stem from two sources: her professional experiences in Hollywood and her Judaism.

Calla came to film and TV by chance. A friend of a friend thought that because she directed and produced plays, she would be a good film producer, so he asked her to produce his first film.

“It was a very trying experience as I didn’t really know what I was doing and producing film can be an overwhelming effort especially if you have no experience,” Calla said. “In the end, I survived and loved it.”

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“Spectrum: A Story of the Mind” – ReelAbilities Film Fest Preview

Tuesday, February 27, 2018
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Congregation Har Shalom: 11510 Falls Rd, Potomac, MD 20854

RespectAbility, in partnership with Congregation Har Shalom, is proud to present the acclaimed film “Spectrum: A Story of the Mind” on Tuesday, February 27 at 7:00 p.m. in a sneak-peek preview event for the 2018 ReelAbilities Film Festival of Northern Virginia, which is organized by the Jewish Community Center of Northern VA.

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Grey’s Anatomy: “I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder… but it is not my story.”

Chandra Wilson in costume as Grey's Anatomy's Dr. Miranda Bailey

Chandra Wilson as Dr. Miranda Bailey

Grey’s Anatomy has never been a show to shy away from social commentary. In the era of #MeToo and the focus on gender inequality, Dr. Miranda Bailey (played by Chandra Wilson) fights for herself when she is having a heart attack – and shatters stigma against Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

OCD is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.

Bailey, a Chief-of-Surgery, is at another area hospital with symptoms of a heart attack. The doctor treating her, Dr. Maxwell, does not believe she is and instead asks about emotional and mental stressors in her life. While there are many, Bailey is adamant she truly is having a heart attack – and is correct. But Dr. Maxwell continues to refuse the cardiac stress test that she requests.

The interactions between Bailey and Maxwell illustrate how women and men often are treated differently by medical professionals. Bailey is not only belittled as a woman but also when she discloses she has a disability. She shares that she is taking statins and anti-depressants to manage her OCD.

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