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Hollywood Inclusion

Short Film about Playground Inclusion wins International Acclaim


Rockville, Maryland, Dec. 6 – All kids want to play. Kids with disabilities are no different. “Ian” is a short, animated film inspired by the real-life Ian, a boy with a disability determined to get to the playground despite his playmates bullying him. This film sets out to show that children with disabilities can and should be included.

“Ian” premiered for audiences around the world on YouTube and was broadcast in Latin America simultaneously on Disney Junior, Cartoon Network, Discovery Kids, Nickelodeon, PakaPaka and YouTube Kids Nov. 30, 2018.

“Ian” started as a mother’s mission to educate her son’s bullies on the playground—one to one. When she realized that the need for inclusion was bigger than one playground, she wrote a book and founded Fundación ian to change thousands of minds and attitudes about people with disabilities. She approached MundoLoco, a top digital animation studio in Latin America, about creating “Ian,” an animated film to deliver the message of inclusion to audiences all over the world.

A Universal Story

Poster for Ian- a moving storyThe film is wordless—a deliberate decision to make “Ian” inclusive of all people. “We worked hard to make it as simple and honest as we could, so it could be understood by a preschool child, yet an adult could discover other layers of the story,” said Gastón Gorali, who wrote the short.

The universality behind the idea for “Ian” spoke to Gorali immediately. “In that first meeting with [Ian’s mom], I felt the urge to do something about it. To get involved. Ian’s story was so honest, tough and yet full of hope,” he said. “The feeling of being alienated is common to all of us. There’s no need to have a disability to have experienced in our lives isolation and exclusion. To find ourselves fighting a force that pushes us away from whatever we want to be and do.”

“I can play and participate”

The real Ian is a fourth grader who, like most fourth graders, wants to play with his friends. But because some kids are not used to someone like Ian—someone who has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair, and a computer that works with his eye movements to communicate—they bully him and don’t include him when they play.

Ian wants the world to know that he and all the other kids like him can play, too, if others include them. “I can play and participate,” Ian said.

The film, to him, educates the children on the playground that he wants to play, and they can play with him. In animation, the film “Ian” shows that all children, disabled or not, are made of the same stuff.

Bigger than the Playground

Ian playing with a toy dinosaur on the playgroundWhen Ian’s mom, Sheila Graschinsky, saw how children who were not used to people with disabilities treated her son on the playground, she set to work to change their perceptions. She wrote a book called The Giftabout the daily life of a family that includes people with disabilities, which she handed out to children who bullied Ian, she told Variety. But handing out books on playgrounds would not have the wide impact she wanted.

For Graschinsky, the message of “Ian” extends far beyond swings and slides. The wordless plot of “Ian” is a boy struggling to achieve access to something he wants, something other children have readily available to them. People with disabilities regularly struggle for access to public spaces, jobs and social inclusion. The international attention the film is getting proves to Graschinsky that “a more inclusive world is possible.”

“The film is an opportunity for all society…to break down barriers, walls, and free us from prejudices,” Graschinsky said. The film was crafted to “guide [all children] to acquire concrete tools to be people of solidarity.”

“Ian” premiered at Cannes in May 2018. It was written by Gastón Gorali (Metegol/Underdogs), produced by Academy Award winner Juan José Campanella (The Secret in their Eyes) and Fundación ian, a nonprofit founded by Ian’s mom, whose mission is to make life better for families with disabilities. The mixed stop-motion and CGI animated film has won numerous awards internationally. “Ian” has also qualified for the Best Animated Short category in the 2019 Academy Awards.

Bunim/Murray Casting Directors Honored at Media Access Awards

2018 Recipients of the Casting Society of America Award

Jonathan Murray and the Born This Way cast present an award to Sasha Alpert and Megan Sleeper at the Media Access Awards 2018

Jonathan Murray and the Born This Way cast present an award to Sasha Alpert and Megan Sleeper at the 2018 Media Access Awards

Beverly Hills, California, Nov. 8 — Sasha Alpert (They Call Us Monsters, Autism: The Musical, Born This Way) and Megan Sleeper (UndressedBorn This Way) were honored at the Media Access Awards, which recently has formed a partnership with Easterseals Southern California, for their work to create inclusive entertainment that features the stories of people with disabilities. The ceremony honors media and entertainment trailblazers advancing disability awareness and inclusion.

Alpert, Executive Vice President of Programming and Development, and Sleeper, Senior Vice President of Casting, promote the culture of telling authentic stories of people with disabilities at Bunim/Murray Productions (BMP) through their casting, including for Born This Way.

Born This Way, an unscripted reality show on A&E that follows a group of seven young adults with Down syndrome in Southern California, demonstrates that inclusive casting means not only including people with disabilities, but people with disabilities from many different demographics. [continue reading…]

Born This Way Cast Honors Their Casting Directors

Present 2018 Casting Society of America Award to Sasha Alpert and Megan Sleeper

Jonathan Murray and the Born This Way cast at the Media Access Awards 2018

Jonathan Murray and the Born This Way cast at the 2018 Media Access Awards

Beverly Hills, California, Nov. 8— The cast of Born This Way and executive producer Jonathan Murray made an appearance at the Media Access Awards to present casting directors Sasha Alpert and Megan Sleeper with the Casting Society of America Award. The Media Access Awards, which recently has formed a partnership with Easterseals Southern California, honors accurate inclusions of disability in film, television and new media.

Alpert and Sleeper cast Born This Way, for which they won the 2017 Outstanding Casting for a Realty Program Emmy Award. Born This Way is an unscripted series on A&E that follows the lives of seven young adults with Down syndrome as they navigate friendships, romantic relationships and work. The Casting Society of America Award, which Alpert and Sleeper were awarded, honors casting directors who actively participated in the mission of Media Access, according to the Casting Society of America.

Murray and the cast of Born This Way presented Alpert and Sleeper with the award. Steven Clark, Cristina Sanz and Rachel Osterbach delivered lines before presenting the award. [continue reading…]

Speechless Highlights Importance of Self Advocacy and Independence

Watch Speechless on ABC, Fridays at 8:30 p.m. ET.

View Education Resources on Disability Issues and Tools in Spanish

Micah Fowler on the Red Carpet at the Creative Arts Emmys

Micah Fowler

Los Angeles, California, Nov. 5 — In the U.S., schools were not required to provide special education until 1975. Today, the fight for inclusive education remains a constant battle for parents and students. Speechless, a comedy starring Micah Fowler, a young adult with cerebral palsy, as J.J., a high school senior with cerebral palsy, shines the spotlight on the importance of young adults taking over the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process as they grow older.

Creating an IEP, an individual education plan that outlines what a student with a disability needs to be successful in school, can be a daunting challenge for parents and often stressful as there is much to consider when determining the education of a child. The implementation of an IEP is integral for children with disabilities. An IEP is a formal plan for students who have been identified to need accommodations specific to their individual disability in the public-school system. In addition to accommodations, the classroom can be tailored within a general classroom, a smaller group or one-on-one instruction. [continue reading…]

Award Winning Actress Tatiana Lee Says Society is Ready for Disability Representation


Winner of the 2018 Christopher Reeve Acting Scholarship, Media Access Awards

Delbert Whetter, Tatiana Lee and Lauren Appelbaum on the Red Carpet at the Media Access Awards

Delbert Whetter, Tatiana Lee and Lauren Appelbaum on the Red Carpet at the Media Access Awards

Beverly Hills, California, Nov. 2 – There is a conspicuous lack of disability representation in media. The Center for Disease Control estimates that nearly one in five Americans has some type of disability. Yet people with disabilities often are absent in acting, advertising and modeling. Today’s beauty standards often do not include depictions of disabilities. Tatiana Lee, an actress and model with Spina Bifida, is working on improving representation of disabilities in media. “Society is ready for disability representation,” she says.

Lee’s work toward inclusion within the worlds of both modeling and acting led to her receiving the Christopher Reeves Acting Scholarship at the Media Access Awards, which recently has formed a partnership with Easterseals Southern California, Thursday. The ceremony honors media and entertainment trailblazers advancing disability awareness and inclusion.

“Thank you all for giving me the tools to have a fighting chance to finally not feel invisible to the world and to ensure that future generations don’t feel the same,” Lee said while accepting the award. “I’m so honored and I will continue this journey and do all I can to ensure Hollywood is accessible to anyone else that dares to dream big!” [continue reading…]

Gail Williamson, Agent, Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award from Media Access Awards

headshot of Gail Williamson

Gail Williamson

Beverly Hills, California, Oct. 30 — As the “only agent in the country with a specialty of representing actors with disabilities,” Gail Williamson says that it is her ultimate goal that the need for specialty agents is eliminated. Someday, she hopes, agents, casting directors and producers will be able to accommodate actors with disabilities themselves, without needing to call her. First and foremost, Williamson considers herself an advocate for people with disabilities.

“I’m not an agent because I love being an agent. I’m an agent because I love the power of changing society through images,” she said. “I love that a simple image can change [people’s] minds.”

Williamson will be presented with the Norman Lear – Geri Jewell Lifetime Achievement Award at the Media Access Awards, which recently has formed a partnership with Easterseals Southern California, on November 1, 2018. The ceremony honors media and entertainment trailblazers advancing disability awareness and inclusion. Williamson is an indispensable advocate for disability representation in television and film. She demonstrates that with a simple phrase: “Any kid with Down syndrome in the U.S. who wants to act, I’ve probably got their picture.”

“We are honored to present the Norman Lear – Geri Jewell Lifetime Achievement Award to Gail Williamson who has done so much for the inclusion of people with disabilities in media,” said Deborah Calla, Chair of the Media Access Awards. “Gail was knocking on doors decades ago when the conversation about inclusion wasn’t a conversation at all. We owe her so much.” [continue reading…]

Representation of Characters with Disabilities Increases on TV but Still Lacking

Image of the cast of speechless and GLAAD's Where We Are on TV report

Los Angeles, California, Oct. 26 – GLAAD’s 2018-2019 Where We Are on TV Report includes the only analysis of primetime scripted series regulars on broadcast networks of characters with disabilities. Largely known for tracking the number of LGBTQ+ characters on broadcast and cable networks, as well as streaming services, the Where We Are on TV Report also tracks racial, gender and disability inclusion on television.

The amount of regular primetime broadcast characters counted who have a disability has slightly increased to 2.1 percent, but that number still vastly underrepresents the actualities of Americans with disabilities. There are seven characters across all three platforms tracked (broadcast, cable, streaming) who are HIV-positive, a substantial increase from last year’s two.

While the 2018-19 season will see 18 characters with disabilities, versus 16 in 2017-18, that number still vastly underrepresents the actual number of people with disabilities, representing less than one-sixth. Furthermore, while more than one-third of LGBTQ+ adults have a disability, GLAAD’s report found only four LGBTQ+ characters with disabilities.

It is clear that representation matters. Just as GLAAD will continue to work alongside the industry to tell LGBTQ+ stories on screen and further the conversation through their year-round work, RespectAbility, a nonprofit fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, will continue to do so for full representation of people with disabilities – including those with disabilities who are LGBTQ+. [continue reading…]

This Is Us Highlights Importance of Men Talking about their Mental Illnesses

Photos of Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) on This Is Us

Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) on This Is Us

Los Angeles, California, Oct. 15 – The third season of This Is Us continues to tear at viewers’ heartstrings while carefully using its platform to shed light on an important issue that often goes unspoken in today’s society: mental health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one-in-five Americans lives with some form of mental illness. Not only is the show written in a way that people can connect with but it also is subliminally inviting the everyday viewer to join the conversation about the inclusion of people with disabilities.

Spoilers ahead.

[continue reading…]

9-1-1 Works to Normalize Children with Disabilities and Set High Expectations

Ryan Guzman and Gavin McHugh eat cereal on the show 9-1-1 on Fox

Ryan Guzman and Gavin McHugh eating cereal in the opening scene of “Stuck”

Los Angeles, California, Oct. 15 – When 20th Century Fox Television’s 9-1-1 introduced a recurring character with a disability, it provided an opportunity to both normalize the inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas of society and highlight the importance of setting high expectations for children with disabilities.

Spoilers ahead.

[continue reading…]

Earthquake Scenario on 9-1-1 Includes Storyline with Student with Cerebral Palsy

Gavin McHugh on the set of 9-1-1 in front of a firetruck

Gavin McHugh on the set of 9-1-1

A show focused on emergency responders and the behind-the-scenes intricacies of their rescues is bound to tackle some issues relating to disabilities. But 20th Century Fox Television’s 9-1-1 has taken disability inclusion a step further by including a recurring character with a disability and providing an opportunity for further discussion of issues relating to disability access and belonging.

The two-night Season 2 opener introduced two new lead characters – Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), a nurse escaping an abusive relationship who becomes a 9-1-1 operator, and Eddie Diaz (Ryan Anthony Guzman), a LAPD firefighter and single dad to seven-year-old son Christopher (Gavin McHugh), who has cerebral palsy.

“Ryan’s character has his own issues: He’s a single father with a son with special needs, with cerebral palsy,” said executive producer Tim Minear. “And he’s an Army veteran who’s left the Army in order to raise his kid.”

The fast-paced opener shows both the lead-up to and the aftermath of a 7.1 earthquake and aftershocks. In the opening scene of the second episode, Eddie and Christopher have a conversation about dogs as Eddie walks his son to school, which appears to be a mainstreamed school. “Do you think dogs know they’re dogs?” Christopher asks. ”Do dogs just think we are bigger, less hairier, smarter dogs that walk funny?” The audience then sees Christopher walking with crutches into his school.

When Eddie works to save people trapped in a high-rise, fellow Firefighter Evan “Buck” Buckley (Oliver Stark) attempts to reassure Eddie that Christopher is in the safest place he could be right now – a school, which had been reinforced after a recent earthquake. However, another scene in the episode lets viewers know that some students may still be trapped in the school. The episode ends without viewers learning of Christopher’s fate. [continue reading…]

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