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Hollywood Inclusion

Deaf Actress Shaylee Mansfield Showcases Authenticity on Screen

Mansfield’s Character Zuzu Truly Feels the Beat in Netflix’s New Film

Shaylee Mansfield headshot

Shaylee Mansfield

Los Angeles, California, June 25 – At just 11 years of age, actress Shaylee Mansfield is quickly becoming a household name and role model for all children.

“I’m grateful to have a platform that will give not only Deaf children, but all children to freely speak up, to fight for what they want, and to be fully themselves even if it is not ‘popular,’” Mansfield said in an interview with RespectAbility.

Mansfield draws her inspiration from Daisy Ridley, Gal Gadot and Lauren Ridloff, noting that she is determined to be the next Deaf superhero after Ridloff, who will be appearing in the upcoming Marvel film The Eternals. [continue reading…]

RespectAbility’s VP of Communications Awarded Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award

Logos for Roddenberry foundation and unreasonable conversation.Los Angeles, California, June 18 – Announced on the first day of RespectAbility’s Summer Lab, RespectAbility’s Vice President of Communications Lauren Appelbaum was announced as a recipient of The Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award in partnership with Propper Daley’s A Day of Unreasonable Conversation for this innovative Lab program.

“Our goal is to support creators who are fighting to break down barriers to access and representation, and to erase limits on the type of stories we tell, who gets to tell them, and how,” explained Greg Propper, President of Propper Daley and Founder of A Day of Unreasonable Conversation. [continue reading…]

30 Talented Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities Accepted into RespectAbility’s Second Annual Summer Lab

Sponsors include Cast & Crew, Comcast NBCUniversal, Final Draft, Fox Corporation, Murray/Reese Foundation, Sony Pictures Entertainment, ViacomCBS and The Walt Disney Company

Summer Lab 2019 participants smile together around a statue of Mickey Mouse at The Walt Disney animation studios

Summer Lab 2019 participants at The Walt Disney Studios. Credit: Jeff Maynard

Los Angeles, California, June 11 – After unprecedented competition from around the world, 30 individuals have been accepted into RespectAbility’s second annual Lab for Entertainment Professionals. This 5-week, 15-session virtual summer Lab series for talented people with disabilities interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles, will take place June 16 – July 16, 2020. Participants include diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities.

“This program continues building the talent pipeline of young and mid-career professionals with disabilities working behind the scenes while also enabling hundreds of studio executives to learn about the talents and benefits of hiring people with disabilities,” said Program Director Lauren Appelbaum, RespectAbility’s Vice President, Communications who leads RespectAbility’s Hollywood Inclusion efforts and authored the nonprofit’s Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit. “While we will not be on location at studios this year like in 2019, we are thankful for all the studios that will be virtually hosting us beginning on June 16.” [continue reading…]

Entertainment Professionals With Disabilities Achieve Major Breakthrough that Will Help Millions

Washington, D.C., May 22 – On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that 90 percent of households that rely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will soon have access to safe food delivery online. This is a major life-saving milestone that is partially the result of a group of entertainment professionals, in partnership with the disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility, who created a campaign to ensure that people who use SNAP can do so through online delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nationwide, 11 million Americans with disabilities depend on SNAP, also called food stamps, to pay for groceries. Prior to the pandemic, just six states allowed SNAP users to order food for delivery. With this week’s announcements, 37 states plus the District of Columbia soon will accept SNAP food stamps online. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue also announced that more businesses and retail stores will accept SNAP benefits online. [continue reading…]

Hollywood Professionals with Disabilities Help Millions Gain Safe Access to Food

Online Ordering and Food Delivery Urgent for 11 Million People with Disabilities on SNAP  

Los Angeles, California, May 14 – A group of entertainment professionals, in partnership with the disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility, have created a campaign to ensure that people who use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can do so through online delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new video featuring those who use wheelchairs, are blind and are immunocompromised from all over the country urges governors and the USDA to cut the red tape and allow SNAP users to order safely from home. [continue reading…]

Disability Portrayal on Screen Hits a Landmark High, Yet Reinforces Negative Stereotypes

Characters with Disabilities More Likely to Be Rescued or Die, But Those in the Workforce Portrayed Positively in Family Films

Historic high for leading characters with disabilities. 8% of family films in 2019 featured a lead with a disabilityLos Angeles, California, May 4 – When it comes to showing people with disabilities on TV, they are almost never seen, and when they are, it is in a negative light, limiting opportunities for people with disabilities everywhere. However, a new study found the family film industry brings a continued historic high for leading characters with disabilities. In fact, eight percent of family films in both 2018 and 2019 featured a lead with a disability. This is jump up from just one percent from most of the last decade and shows that the increased representation is being sustained from one year to the next. While this number is still not representative of people with a disability in the U.S. – as one-in-five people in the U.S. live with a disability today, it is a step in the right direction.

“Media is one of the most immediate and impactful ways to influence our views on societal norms and has the power to eradicate intersectional gender inequality in our global cultures,” said Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. “If our audiences can see themselves positively portrayed onscreen, it can reinforce the message that they matter. And also, it can influence their long-term views throughout their lives.”

The study, See Jane 2020 Film, was conducted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and USC Viterbi School of Engineering. It evaluated the 100 top-grossing live action and animated family films (rated G, PG or PG-13) of 2019. These films included a total of 2,991 characters, including 122 leading/co-leading characters, 1,032 supporting characters and 1,837 minor characters. [continue reading…]

Autism Acceptance Month Spotlight: Erica Milsom, Director, Pixar SparkShorts’ “Loop”

Our friends over at The Walt Disney Company shared this interview with Erica Milsom, the director of Pixar’s Loop. Everything below – text and photos – is courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

Erica Milsom headshot with her hand on her chin. Loop logo. Logos for Pixar and Disney +Throughout April, celebrations across the globe promote autism acceptance and ensure that autistic people are seen, heard and celebrated for their unique experiences of the world. This month, as we continue efforts to extend awareness, encourage acceptance and ignite change, get to know Erica Milsom, a Pixar employee and director of one of Pixar’s SparkShorts, “Loop,” now streaming on Disney+.

In “Loop,” two kids at canoe camp find themselves adrift on a lake, unable to move forward until they find a new way to connect and see the world through each other’s eyes. This film breaks new ground by featuring Pixar’s first non-verbal autistic character. [continue reading…]

Fancy Nancy Spotlights Autism Inclusion for World Autism Awareness Day

Nancy and Sean playing with a toy train set seated on a rug

FANCY NANCY – “Nancy’s New Friend” – Nancy learns about autism when she befriends Lionel’s favorite cousin Sean. This episode of “Fancy Nancy” airs Thursday, April 2 (8:00-8:30 A.M. EDT) on Disney Channel. (Disney Junior)

Los Angeles, California, April 1 – With one-in-five people having a disability in the U.S. today, the lack of representation – just 3.1 percent on primetime television and even less in children’s television (less than one percent) – means that millions of people are unable to see themselves in media today. Disney Junior’s Fancy Nancy is hoping to buck that trend in a new episode, “Nancy’s New Friend.” Nancy is excited to meet her friend Lionel’s favorite cousin Sean, who is on the Autism spectrum. But Nancy does not understand why Sean does not respond to him and needs to learn how to connect with Sean in a different way than she does with other friends.

“We hope this episode will help our viewers understand that there are sensitivities to be mindful of when engaging with someone who has autism,” said Fancy Nancy co-producer/head writer, Krista Tucker. “People with autism may act in ways we feel are different, and that’s okay—they’re just being who they are. In a world where so many children interact with kids who have autism, this kind of understanding creates compassion, tolerance and friendship. Most importantly, it creates a world that is kind and accepting of all of us.”

The episode, which airs on Thursday, April 2 at 8:00 a.m. ET, is timed to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day. [continue reading…]

Code of the Freaks reveals the not-so-secret code to disability representation in mainstream cinema 

Film will premiere as the Opening Night selection of The ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York and will be shown virtually on March 31, 2020, followed by a Q&A.

New York City, March 31 – Have you ever been online, just aimlessly scrolling through the web and found an article that makes a point you’ve been trying to get across for years, but have never been able to express: one of the moments where you can’t help but to exclaim that “they put it into words”? When it comes to the topic of disability representation in mainstream cinema, Code of the Freaks, directed by Salome Chasnoff, does just that, except for instead of being an 800-word opinion piece, it’s a brilliant, clever and expertly-crafted, hour-ish long film.

Touting a comedic disclaimer that “no people with disabilities were harmed in the making of this film,” Code opens with clips from the 1392 movie Freaks – from which it draws its name – and uses these examples as a jumping-off point for the discussion to come on disability representation in mainstream cinema. It takes clips from movies that include characters with disabilities and picks apart the way those characters, their stories and the situations are portrayed – including what the directors and writers got right, if anything, and what they did terribly (in most instances) wrong. It brings with it an important message in the fact that film, in many ways, functions as an educational medium – insofar as introducing people to experiences they might be unfamiliar with – meaning that what they ‘teach’ goes a lot further and deeper than one might think.

[continue reading…]

SXSW Winner “Single” is not Here to Make you Feel Good – or to be a Love Story


Scene from Single with Kim and Jake on a blind date together inside a barLos Angeles, Calif., March 26 – Rarely does a film come along that feels entirely refreshing, not just in terms of the genre, but in everything it does: “Single” is one of those hidden gems. The new Ashley Eakin film, Special Jury Recognition Winner at SXSW 2020 for Narrative Shorts, shines with its gorgeous, saturated, Hollywood-polished cinematography, authentic representation and undeniable assertation that it is not a love story – while tackling the complexities of dating while disabled.

“Single” tells the story of a day in the life of Kim: a millennial looking to live her life and maybe find love along the way – or at least a chance to get off of Tinder. As the film opens, she can be seen acting like any other twenty-something: buying a bottle of wine, talking on the phone to her friend and telling her about the blind date she’s going on, set up by her mom’s friend from book club.

She also has one arm. [continue reading…]

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