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Hollywood Inclusion

New Documentary Short Film, My Disability Roadmap Follows One Filmmaker’s Search for Wisdom on his Path to Adulthood

Los Angeles, May 20 – In the short documentary, My Disability Roadmap, from father-son filmmaking team, 22-year-old disabled filmmaker Samuel Habib and his father Dan Habib, we witness a glimpse of Samuel’s journey to adulthood told through his point of view. Samuel is a college student with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, living in Concord, New Hampshire. Navigating the ableist biases of our society, especially in terms of how people treat him, Samuel decides to meet with some of the most influential disability advocates in America (including Ali Stroker, Bob Williams, Judy Heumann, and more) for advice. What Samuel learns on his journey is that he is not alone; all individuals struggle in our society, regardless of disability. As Samuel says, “Disability is part of the natural diversity of the world…We should not be segregated.” As someone with a physical disability myself, I could not agree more.

Samuel Habib and a young woman moving through a crowd of people cheering them on in a scene from My Disability Roadmap

Samuel Habib

Samuel also says, “No one tells you how to be an adult, let alone an adult with a disability,” and I am sure several people can relate, including myself. All of Samuel’s struggles are extremely relatable, but when it comes to disability there is no roadmap for how to maximize opportunities in society, whether it be socially or economically. “Knowledge” is a key theme in the documentary as we follow Samuel learning from his mentors or Samuel educating those around him about his disability. [continue reading…]

“Mickey Mouse Funhouse” Furthers Inclusion with New Deaf Character

Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck and Fig in a scene from Mickey Mouse Funhouse

Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck and Fig in a scene from “Mickey Mouse Funhouse”

Los Angeles, CA, May 13 – Fans of Mickey Mouse who use ASL to communicate will be seeing themselves represented by a new character, Fig, a gnome friend who is deaf.

Fig made his debut in Disney Junior’s “Mickey Mouse Funhouse” Friday. A drummer and music enthusiast, Fig and his sister Olive help Minnie and Daisy understand how he communicates. “The Music of the Seasons” will re-air throughout the month of May and beyond and Fig will appear in additional upcoming episodes alongside Mickey and his friends.

RespectAbility Vice Chair Delbert Whetter and his brother Jevon Whetter, who are both deaf, consulted on the development of this character.

“Jevon and I feel so privileged and honored to connect young deaf and hard of hearing children with such iconic characters as Mickey and Minnie using ASL, a language that is visually accessible to them,” said Delbert Whetter, who has more than 20 years of experience in producing animated feature films. [continue reading…]

New Disability Screen Office Opens in Canada to Support and Amplify Creative Voices of Disabled Canadians

A person walking down a sidewalk with a white cane. Logo for AMI. Text: Disability Screen OfficeToronto, May 6 – Accessible Media Inc. (AMI), in partnership with the Canadian Media Fund (CMF) and Telefilm Canada, is launching a Disability Screen Office (DSO) in Canada to eliminate accessibility barriers and support and amplify disabled creatives.

“It became apparent that there is currently no single program, incentive, or regulation that can cause the screen industry to be fully inclusive for people with disabilities,” said Andrew Morris, Manager, Independent Production, AMI-tv. “The only way to create meaningful real opportunities for people with disabilities in the media industry is to address the systemic barriers relating to education, industry regulations, insufficient and/or inaccurate representation, public beliefs and attitudes, and full accessibility throughout the media industry.” [continue reading…]

Trevonne Slays as Seven

poster for Seven featuring Natalie Trevonne as SevenLos Angeles, CA, April 22 – Natalie Trevonne returns to Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, playing Seven, a blind 19-year-old who is removed from her normal life after finding out she’s the next slayer and the only one who can save the world. Not fully understanding her true destiny, tensions run high as she trains with her watcher, Mr. Gordon (Jongman Kim).

During training, Seven experiences periods of self doubt. She runs away, finding a blind pianist (Jeremy Jeffers) playing a song her mentor used to play for her when she was scared. “When I am away, be strong for me,” she sings the lyrics that she wrote. “Oh, Lord, please be my strength.” [continue reading…]

“Taco Tuesday” Shows the Importance of Using Superpowers for Good

Group photo of the cast and crew behind Taco Tuesday, with John Lawson lying on the floorLos Angeles, CA, April 22 – Each year, John Lawson looks forward to participating in the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, assembling a team of disabled actors and filmmakers working alongside allies to create a short film in less than a week.

Filmmakers are given a theme to focus on in their projects, and the theme of this year’s challenge was to create a superhero film. Taco Tuesday opens with dramatic music, showing a sibling pair played by Jamie Brewer and Jay Disney rushing to stop a deadly crime.

Amelia (Brewer) has the ability to see into the future. She chooses to use her superpower to fight crime. Brewer is a young woman with Down syndrome best known for her roles in the FX horror anthology television series American Horror Story. She also appeared in the first music video starring actors with Down syndrome, Delta Spirit’s What’s Done is Done. [continue reading…]

Invincible: New Short Film Explores Important Conversation Around Disability and Accessibility

Jennifer Valdes headshot

Jennifer Valdes

Los Angeles, CA, April 21 – The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is an annual filmmaking competition that aims to uplift disability representation and portrayal in the media. Each year the filmmakers are given a theme to focus on in their projects, and this year’s theme is “superhero.”

RespectAbility 2021 Entertainment Lab Alumna Jennifer Valdes wrote and directed a short film titled, “Invincible” working alongside an inclusive cast and crew comprised  of both disabled and nondisabled people. The short film follows a character named Sam who is a wheelchair user, as she is faced with the daunting task of making it onto a wheelchair ramp as she grapples with her inner thoughts.

The film creatively uses the “superhero” concept of this year’s challenge to highlight Sam’s inner voices in a lighthearted and comical fashion through physical and verbal exchanges with sound effects. The internal battle between Sam’s thoughts are represented through satirical superhero tropes of “good” vs. “evil” as represented by Mr. Invisible, the evil supervillain and Mr. Invincible, who is the superhero. [continue reading…]

Short Film Andy and Kaliope Reminds Us That Foster Kids With Disabilities Deserve More Visibility

The cast and crew of Andy and Calliope filming on the setNew York, NY, April 21 – Andy & Kaliope is a heartwarming short film that touches on the barely explored, yet significant, topic of disabled foster children. Created by Writer/Producer/Actress Rachel Handler and Directors Catriona Rubenis-Stevens and Crystal Arnette, Andy & Kaliope brings awareness to the realities of foster children who are disabled by following the challenges of a disabled foster child between homes.

As the film states, 30-50% of children waiting to be adopted in the United States have a disability. High medical costs often deter potential adopters. Historically, children with disabilities often were forgotten because they were not considered adoptable. Andy & Kaliope is changing the narrative by conveying that these preconceptions are finally starting to change. That being said, children such as Andy still are faced with heavy stigmatization or a lack of consideration due to their disability. Bringing awareness to the issue can help break down the barriers that get in the way of adoption and the insecurities that weigh disabled children down. As Andy himself mentions, there’s a lot of work to do but we’re finally starting to get there. [continue reading…]

Everything Everywhere All At Once Takes Viewers on a Journey Inside the Multiverses of a Neurodivergent Mind

Written by Dennis Tran and Vanni Le

Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere All at Once

Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere All at Once

Los Angeles, April 14 – Everything Everywhere All At Once is an emotional, chaotic, and heartwarming film that takes the audience on a wild journey into an ever-changing multiverse. The film follows the overwhelmed Evelyn Wang, played by Michelle Yeoh, as she (unsuccessfully) tries to juggle everyday tasks, including running a laundromat with her passive yet upbeat husband Waymond (played by Ke Huy Quan in his dynamic return to acting since his child actor days), preparing for the arrival of her disapproving father, and struggling to connect with her “rebellious” queer and tattooed college dropout daughter. This anxiety-inducing opening act is topped off with Evelyn also trying to compile the right documentation for a trip to the IRS office.

It’s clear that Evelyn is dissatisfied with her mediocre life and the choices that led to it. Evelyn’s mind wanders off to escape from her reality, and her scatter-brained tendencies cause frustration from her family, yet create unintentionally comical scenes for the audience. She constantly insists that she is “paying attention” yet she completely zones out and starts daydreaming in the middle of a conversation with an IRS officer (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) about her questionable tax practices. [continue reading…]

Attending the Inaugural ReelAbilities Film & Television Accessibility Summit in NYC

RespectAbility Lab Alumni and team members at ReelAbilities Film Festival

L-R: Nasreen Alkhateeb, Isabella Vargas, Molly McConville, Kiah Amara, April Caputi, Alaa Zabara, Colin Buckingham

New York, NY, April 14 – ReelAbilities, the nation’s largest film festival focused on disability inclusion hosted its first ever Film and Television Accessibility Summit in NYC last week. I had the opportunity to attend the summit where a wide variety of panelists spoke on all matters related to accessibility, and how we all can contribute to creating an accessible, successful, and welcoming entertainment industry.

The summit virtually covered every area of the industry, from pre-production to post-production and marketing. Each panel was produced with a sharp eye for accessibility, serving as the perfect model on how all events should provide accessible spaces. The panels were hybrid, giving some people the ease of tuning in virtually. There were several ASL interpreters throughout, closed captioning, and other accommodations were easily added in as requested by the audience. It was a great example of how different people with different disabilities and needs can co-exist in this kind of space. For me, this was a refreshing thing to see and experience in action. It gave me plenty of ease and comfort as a participant, and I believe it also gave each panelist a comfortable space to really dive into talking about disability and accessibility. [continue reading…]

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