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Hollywood Inclusion

Diana Romero: Award-Winning Producer with Multiple Sclerosis Continues to Find Success in Hollywood

Filmmaker Diana Romero dressed in black, smiling. Romero is a wheelchair userLos Angeles, Oct. 11 – Award-winning producer Diana Romero has worked in the industry for more than a decade. When she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), she approached it the only way she knew how – with a sense of humor.

“When I started having issues with my legs, I withdrew from everything, because of a feeling of shame and embarrassment, mostly coming from not knowing how to live life without the use of my legs,” Romero said in an interview with RespectAbility. “It wasn’t until I decided to travel alone for six weeks that I regained confidence and then took it to the stage. Because I know a lot of people who don’t have disabilities look at me and they think, I wonder what’s wrong with her. I want people to see what my everyday life is. I want people to hear what I deal with…look at the things that happened to me in a humorous way…to me that’s healing… I don’t dwell on it; it doesn’t keep me depressed.” [continue reading…]

Dyslexia Showcased on NBC’s Perfect Harmony

Los Angeles, Oct. 10 – NBC’s Perfect Harmony is, at heart, a show about saving and being saved. The show was billed as being about former Princeton University music professor Arthur Cochran (Bradley Whitford) saving an out-of-tune church choir, but the choir, led by Ginny (Anna Camp) ends up saving him back.

An important subplot revolves around Ginny – her love life and her son, who often gets in trouble for acting out at school. Arthur discovers the reason for her son Cash (Spencer Allport) getting into fights at school – “having trouble reading.”

“Every time he looks at a page, the letters float around. It’s called dyslexia,” Arthur tells Ginny. “A lot of successful people have had it. Yates, Churchill, Tom Cruise.”

Ginny is relieved, having thought she caused his bad performance at school “by getting a divorce.” [continue reading…]

Andrea Lausell: Disability Pride & Hispanic Heritage Pride as One 

Andrea Lausell leaning against a staircase railing in front of a wallLos Angeles, California, Oct. 9 – As people with disabilities turn to YouTube to create content and normalize their experiences, Andrea Lausell is quickly becoming a YouTube star for her honest conversations about disability.

For Lausell, disability was not a negative word that her family was afraid to use. In fact, her parents taught her to be proud of it. They told her it was okay not to be able to do something.

“My mom just always said, as a matter of fact, said, ‘I’m disabled,’” Lausell recalled during an interview with RespectAbility, stating how unique that is based on her Latinx culture.

There is not a world in Spanish that describes disability unless it is a negative word like broken or bad, Lausell said, describing how her paternal grandmother was very distant toward her as a child and only speaking Spanish. [continue reading…]

The Voice’s Will Breman Breaking Boundaries and Tackling Low Expectations for Singers with Disabilities

Los Angeles, California, Oct. 8 – Will Breman introduced himself to America on NBC’s The Voice by identifying that he is on the Autism spectrum through a joke.

“It’s interesting when someone asks, ‘you seem so socially awkward, do you have Asperger’s?’ Because usually that’s my pickup line, since I have it [Asperger’s].” With that joke, Breman began the process of winning over the audience and the coaches on The Voice.

Breman is a singer and songwriter who hails from Santa Barbara, California. In his introductory package, Breman talked about how he has limited interests and how it was difficult not having a lot of friends growing up. He also touched on how some people told him that he wouldn’t amount to anything. With that, Breman was addressing the low expectations that many people with disabilities face. Breman said that “music became [his] biggest solace and helped [him] express [his] feelings in a way that would otherwise not come naturally to [him].” He said the opportunity to be on The Voice and “break those boundaries down” would be “mind-blowing” to his 12-year-old self. [continue reading…]

The Rookie’s Casual Inclusion of Learning Disabilities Fights Stigmas

Eric Winter as Tim Bradford wearing a police uniform with badge on The Rookie

Eric Winter as Tim Bradford on The Rookie

Los Angeles, Oct. 7 – For a highly regarded police officer, stating that you may have a learning disability may seem tough to do. But by including this as a new storyline on The Rookie, ABC primetime is highlighting a very common disability.

When Officer Tim Bradford (Eric Winter) orders Lucy Chen (Melissa O’Neil) to read him a newly assigned book, telling her “I memorize best when I hear it,” Chen hesitantly tells him, “you might have a learning difference.”

“Technically it’s classified as a disability, but it really just means that you’re wired to process information differently,” she continued. “In your case, through hearing, rather than reading.” [continue reading…]

The Real World Brings Disability Representation Worldwide

Washington, D.C., Sept. 26 – When The Real World was launched in 1992, it changed the landscape of television, ushering in the modern era of reality television. Produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, the show continues to focus on a group of people who come from different backgrounds living in a house together, with a different city and a different group of people each season. Twenty-seven years later, the show continues to make an impact. Now streaming for free on Facebook Watch, The Real World has arrived in two new places – Mexico and Bangkok, Thailand. And on both new franchises, disability is represented in an accurate and positive way. [continue reading…]

New UK Survey on Inclusion and Diversity shows 12% of Those in Visual Effects, Animation and Post Production Have a Disability

U.S.-based Exceptional Minds Viewed as a Best Practice for UK Companies to Emulate

Rockville, Maryland, Sept. 25 – A new survey in the United Kingdom found that 12 percent of individuals working in the animation, VFX and post-production industries identify as having at least one disability. While this is below the national average of 17 percent for working-age people with disabilities, this percentage can and should be celebrated as a beginning benchmark for continued advancement.

Nine percent of the animation, VFX and post-production workforce identified as having at least one neurological condition, with dyslexia being the most common (6.5%), followed by ADHD (2.2%), OCD (1.5%) and Autism (1.3%). Two percent of employees identified as having a physical disability and a further one percent identified with both physical and mental conditions. [continue reading…]

2019 Emmy Nominees Include People with Disabilities

Even though disability representation has improved, Hollywood still has work to do for full inclusion – and recognition – of disability. 

Emmy TrophyLos Angeles, Calif., Sept. 22 – As Hollywood celebrates Emmy season last weekend and tonight, it’s important to highlight the several nominees with disabilities. Including authentic disability in the diversity conversation is important to ensure that Hollywood does not leaves out the largest minority in the U.S., as one-in-four American adults identify as having a disability.

Two highly nominated shows that are best practices for disability inclusion – Born This Way and Special – did not win any of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards that were given out last weekend. But Jane Lynch (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), who is deaf in one ear, and CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, whose main character, played by Rachel Bloom, has depression and anxiety, both took home Emmy Awards.

“Inclusion of people with disabilities must be an intentional effort,” said Lauren Appelbaum, who leads RespectAbility’s Hollywood Inclusion efforts as the organization’s Vice President of Communications and author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit.  “Looking forward to tonight’s ceremony, nominees include actors with disabilities. Yet there is very little disability representation in terms of characters and story lines, especially with actors with disabilities playing characters with disabilities. What we see on screen influences how we act in real life. The entertainment industry has an opportunity to help remove the stigmas that currently exist about interacting with individuals with disabilities.” [continue reading…]

Fort Irwin Showcases Realities of Living in an Ableist Society Yet Choosing to Confront Challenges Head-On

Still from Fort Irwin with Cristian Valle in a military uniform sitting outside leaning against a wall. Christian is a double amputee, and has no legs.

Los Angeles, Sept. 18 – In Fort Irwin, Cristian Valle, a double amputee Purple Heart recipient, attempts to confront his past trauma by acting in a hyperrealistic military simulation.

Valle lost one of his legs when a grenade exploded while he was deployed to Iraq. His other leg was eventually amputated as well because of its severe damage. Now living in Southern California with wife and daughters, he always had a desire to act.

In Fort Irwin, the viewer is treated to a glimpse of Valle’s life. On his way to participates in a vivid and visceral military reenactment, Valle stops for gas where a loud backfire from a car startles him, showing viewers that Valle has PTSD from his time in Iraq. He receives a call from his therapist who says he needs to go through this and confront trauma to heal. She reminds him he is not leaving California and no matter how realistic it may feel, it is not Iraq. [continue reading…]

Autism: The Sequel Puts the Spotlight on Autistic Young Adults and Their Families

A young adult with autism playing the violaLos Angeles, California, Sept. 18 – In a world where media focuses almost solely on children with Autism, Autism: The Sequel will focus on what it is like to be an autistic young adult.

When Autism: The Musical was released in 2007, scores of young children were being identified as autistic. The original film followed five autistic children from The Miracle Project as they created and performed a live musical performance. Now, 12 years later, these children have become young adults with autism. Autism: The Sequel reconnects with these individuals and their families. Through their stories, viewers see the ways in which the world has changed to accommodate autistic people as well as the ways in which it still has not. [continue reading…]

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