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Hollywood Inclusion

Congressman to Be Featured on Emmy-Winning Reality Show

Born This Way cast members posing with RespectAbility staff members and Rep. Brad Sherman

RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Born This Way Cast Member Sean McElwee, RespectAbility Communications Director Lauren Appelbaum. Born This Way Cast Members Steven Clark, Cristina Sanz and Megan Bomgaars, Rep. Brad Sherman, Born This Way Executive Producer and RespectAbility Board Member Jonathan Murray

Brad Sherman speaking at the microphone with a RespectAbility banner behind him

Participants during RespectAbility’s “Workforce Development” session discuss how to move the needle on the employment rate of people with disabilities in Los Angeles, California and the country. All participants had an opportunity to share ideas during roundtable discussions, as well as in follow-up surveys and conversations. Rep. Brad Sherman attended the session, listening to the ideas presented by all who attended.

Washington, D.C., June 1 – Rep. Brad Sherman, the 10-term Congressman, is known as a serious legislator. So what is he doing in a reality show made by the same company that created Keeping up with the Kardashians, Rob & Chyna and Total Divas?

The reason is simple: he cohosted a major event in his district with Emmy-winning reality-TV innovator Jonathan Murray (executive producer of the shows listed above, in addition to Real WorldBorn This WayAutism the Musical and others) and former President George W. Bush appointee on disability issues, Steve Tingus.

The event, entitled “Ending Stigmas & Bigotry: Expanding Employment for People with Disabilities,” was presented by Sherman working in partnership with RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. Both Murray and Tingus are on the board of RespectAbility, whose president, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, and communications director, Lauren Appelbaum, also are featured in the episode.

Participants in the event included stars from the cast of Emmy-winning reality show Born This Way, which features seven diverse young adults with Down syndrome, as well as other individuals with Autism, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, physical disabilities, amputations and non-visible disabilities. Local experts, including Cathy Gott, Elaine Hall, Sandra McElwee, Joclynn Benjamin and others also participated. Together, participants brainstormed new ideas to move the needle forward on the employment of people with disabilities in a shared agenda. The congressman facilitated these discussions.

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From Hollywood to Capitol Hill: The Future of Americans with Disabilities

A Special Summit for Congressional and Senate Staff, Journalists and Disability Advocates

This summit, “From Hollywood to Capitol Hill,” features Marc Summers of The Food Network, Casting Director and Producer Leah Daniels-Butler and Tommy Morrissey, the one-arm golfer

Location: Rayburn House Office Building, Gold Room, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.

July 31, 2017, 8:30 AM – 3:00 PM

There is no charge to attend this event.

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Born This Way Season 3 Finale #BTWChat, July 18

Featuring Sandra Assimotos McElwee, mom of Born This Way cast member Sean – @purpose2inspire

Hosted by Lauren Appelbaum (@laurenappelbaum) of RespectAbility (@Respect_Ability), this Twitter chat will take a look at ideas explored in #BornThisWay by the young adults with Down syndrome and their parents.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017, 10:00-11:00 pm ET

Don’t have cable? You can livestream the show on A&E’s app.

You can find the questions for this chat in this post.

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Emmy-Winning Reality Show Features Self-Determination for People with Disabilities in Healthcare Choices

Watch #BornThisWay on A&E, Tuesday at 10/9c.

Join RespectAbility for a live Twitter chat during the east coast broadcast using #BornThisWay and #BTWchat.

Rockville, Maryland, May 22 – Fully one-in-five Americans has a disability, and in many cases, their rights and lives are needlessly put at risk. While some healthcare choices are easy to understand, others are highly complex. For the first time on reality television, the issue of how adults with intellectual, mental health or other disabilities make competent decisions that can literally be life changing, or life enabling, is being addressed.

Born This Way, which recently won an Emmy for being the best reality show on TV today, is not an ordinary reality show. It stars seven diverse young adults with Down syndrome as they deal with issues around employment, independent living, education and romance.

This Tuesday night, A&E’s Born This Way will cover the potentially life-saving issue of supported decision-making for medical care. Supported decision-making is an emerging strategy to enable individuals with developmental and other disabilities to make their own choices. This is especially helpful in the health care setting where every person utilizes the expertise of his or her provider and other resources to make difficult health related decisions.

“RespectAbility applauds Born This Way for its informed and sensitive coverage of how adults with disabilities can safely and successfully interact with the healthcare system,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities for people with disabilities. “It’s not every day that reality shows can save lives – but this episode absolutely can do that. It also demonstrates that every human being has the right to be treated with dignity.”

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Born This Way Season 3 #BTWChat

Featuring Sandra Assimotos McElwee, mom of Born This Way cast member Sean – @purpose2inspire

Hosted by Lauren Appelbaum (@laurenappelbaum) of RespectAbility (@Respect_Ability), this Twitter chat will take a look at ideas explored in #BornThisWay by the young adults with Down syndrome and their parents.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 9:00-11:00 pm ET

Don’t have cable? You can livestream the show on A&E’s app.

You can find the questions for this chat in this post.

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Zero Actor Nominees for Academy Awards Have a Known Disability

Two Categories to Watch: Visual Effects and Full-Length Documentary Nominations Include People with Autism

Academy Award Oscar Statuettes

Photo by Toby Canham/Getty Images

Los Angeles, Calif. – As Hollywood gets ready to celebrate the Oscars this weekend, a glaring omission of nominees is evident. No known actor with a disability was nominated for an Academy Award. By not including authentic disability in the diversity conversation, Hollywood leaves out the largest minority in the U.S.

“Hollywood has to catch up with its audience,” RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said. “Diversity must really mean diversity – and that includes the one-in-five Americans who has a disability. Disability needs to be a part of every conversation on diversity. When films and television shows lack the inclusion of disability in their diversity efforts, Hollywood is disenfranchising the one-in-five Americans who have a disability.”

However, there are two examples of importance in this arena. Behind the scenes, Marvel’s Doctor Strange has been nominated in the category of visual effects. Two of the individuals who contributed to this cinematic technology, Jacob Fenster and Noah Schneider, have autism and currently work at Exceptional Minds Studios in Sherman Oaks, California. Marvel Studios is planning to partner on 15 more movies with Exceptional Minds, a nonprofit vocational school and working studio that prepares young adults on the autism spectrum for careers in digital animation and visual effects.

Additionally, Life, Animated was nominated for the full-length documentary category. The film shows how Owen, a young man with Autism who was unable to speak as a child, and his father are able to connect using Disney animated films.

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Fighting Stigmas and Expanding Opportunities for People with Disabilities Through Hollywood

Get Involved!

At RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and expanding opportunities for people with disabilities, we have been working with several partners within the entertainment industry on the full inclusion of people with disabilities – in front and behind the camera. On Feb. 8, we held a webinar with several partners as part of the process of creating a Community of Practice to work on the closely connected issues of disability, diversity, inclusion, poverty and media.

The webinar is being followed up with in-person meetings for interested parties based in Los Angeles and New York City. We are looking for partners to help move the needle on two core important issues: inclusion and diversity in Hollywood and employment of people with disabilities.

Our most recent events were held on on Feb. 21, 2017 in Los Angeles. Throughout the day, we hosted meetings of leaders in philanthropy, workforce development and entertainment industry who care about diversity, inclusion and employment in Hollywood for people with disabilities. There is a great potential to gather committed stakeholders to join together to form a Community of Practice to work on the closely connected issues of disability, diversity, inclusion, poverty and media. We hope this gathering will inaugurate a Community of Practice composed of key stakeholders to move the needle on two core important issues: inclusion and diversity in Hollywood and employment of people with disabilities.

Please contact our Communications Director at [email protected] for more information.

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Super Bowl Ads for Coca-Cola, Airbnb and Google Home Leave out People with Disabilities

Rockville, Md., Feb. 6 – While many commercials during last night’s Super Bowl focused on diversity and inclusion, the majority did not include people with disabilities.

Coca-Cola reran an ad from the 2014 Super Bowl. “It’s Beautiful” features people of different backgrounds singing “America, The Beautiful” in different languages.

Likewise, Airbnb’s “We Accept” also showcased people of a variety of backgrounds. The ad is set to music with text laid over close-ups of people’s faces that read: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.” The ad ended with the hashtag #WeAccept, which went viral by halftime.

Google’s “Google Home” commercial included multiple minority groups by showing homes with rainbow pride flags and mezuzahs and people from all races cooking, eating, dancing and enjoying life.

Yet all three of these ads, which promoted inclusion of diverse people, failed to include people with disabilities, which is the largest minority in America, with almost one-in-five Americans having a disability. The disability community often is forgotten in diversity conversations in Hollywood and elsewhere.

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WEBINAR: Hollywood, Media & Disability

Fighting Stigmas and Expanding Opportunities for People with Disabilities

Read the webinar transcript (COMING SOON)
Download the accessible PowerPoint
Watch the webinar on YouTube with live embedded captions

Featuring

Jenni Gold, editor, screenwriter, director and founder of Gold Pictures, Inc.
John Tucker, cast member of Emmy-award winning Born This Way and rap artist
Gail Williamson, talent agent and head of the Diversity Department at Kazarian/Measures/Ruskin & Associates

Moderated By Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility

We at RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and expanding opportunities for people with disabilities, have been working with several partners within the entertainment industry on the full inclusion of people with disabilities – in front and behind the camera. The webinar was part of the process of creating a Community of Practice to work on the closely connected issues of disability, diversity, inclusion, poverty and media.

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