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Press Releases

RespectAbility Opens Nomination Process for Second-Annual Justin Chappell Memorial and Steve Bartlett Awards

Washington, D.C., January 19 – RespectAbility is pleased to announce that nominations for the second-annual Justin Chappell Memorial Award and Steve Bartlett Award are now open and will close on April 14th. Award winners will receive $1,000 and be honored in a public ceremony celebrating RespectAbility’s ten-year anniversary.

“As we launch the celebration of our tenth year of advocacy on behalf of and with the full diversity of the disability community, we are excited that these awards are returning to honor the work of incredible advocates who have helped make full participation in the community possible for more disabled individuals,” said Ariel Simms, RespectAbility’s President and CEO. “In 2022, for our inaugural awards, we had the distinct privilege of honoring two incredible advocates in the field, and we cannot wait to review nominations for the current cycle!” [continue reading…]

RespectAbility Announces Virtual Cohort of 2022 Entertainment Lab

Text: "RespectAbility Entertainment Lab 2022 virtual cohort. #RespectAbilityLab" Headshots of 18 solo Lab Fellows and one writing duo who make up the cohort.Los Angeles, Aug. 15 – To continue to ensure accessibility for disabled entertainment professionals, the RespectAbility Entertainment Lab will host a virtual cohort this year, building on the success of a virtual format begun during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eighteen individuals and one writing duo, from the United States, Canada, Argentina, and Australia, will participate in semiweekly meetings, presentations, and discussions throughout August and September with industry professionals and executives from partner studios, nonprofits, and production companies. In addition, they will have opportunities to workshop their materials for feedback from other cohort members.

RespectAbility, a diverse, disability-led nonprofit that works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities, piloted the Lab in 2019 in Los Angeles. The Lab went virtual in 2020 and 2021 before holding an in-person cohort in Los Angeles in June and July of this year. The virtual format in prior years proved so invaluable to participants and the entertainment industry that RespectAbility decided to continue its successful virtual Lab program. [continue reading…]

RespectAbility Responds to Supreme Court’s Decision to Overturn Roe v. Wade 

Washington, D.C., June 28 – On Friday, the United States Supreme Court reversed its almost 50-year position that the United States Constitution guarantees the right of people who are pregnant or may become pregnant to have autonomy over their own bodies and exercise the right to an abortion. Friday’s decision has and will continue to have a major impact on the disability community, and especially those within the community who are multiply marginalized.

RespectAbility is a diverse, disability-led nonprofit that works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities, and that advances policies and practices that empower people with disabilities to have a better future. Our mission is to fight stigmas and advance opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. Self-determination and access to health care are crucial to ensuring that everyone in the disability community can fully access opportunities and have a better future.  [continue reading…]

20 Disabled Entertainment Professionals Selected for Fourth Annual RespectAbility Lab’s Los Angeles Cohort

Los Angeles, June 3 – As RespectAbility’s Entertainment Lab expands and returns with an in-person option, 20 individuals have been accepted into the Los Angeles Cohort of RespectAbility’s fourth annual Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities. RespectAbility, a diverse, disability-led nonprofit that works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities, piloted the Lab in 2019.

Now entering its fourth year, the Entertainment Lab aims to further develop and elevate the talent pipeline of diverse professionals with disabilities working behind-the-scenes in television, film, and streaming. Lab Fellows meet studio executives and other decision makers who advise them on various aspects of the industry and their craft. This also enables studios and production companies to learn about the talents and benefits of hiring disabled people to work in all aspects of the storytelling process. As such, Lab alumni currently are working at Disney, Netflix, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, Showtime, and more. [continue reading…]

Ariel Simms to Implement Renewed Vision and Foster New Growth and Opportunities as RespectAbility’s Next President and CEO

Ariel Simms smiling headshot wearing glasses and a blazer

Ariel Simms (they/them or she/her)

Washington, D.C., May 10 – As the disability community continues to feel the transformative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility announces that Ariel Simms (they/them or she/her) has been named President and Chief Executive Officer. In this role, Ariel will foster new growth and opportunities, as part of a renewed vision to deepen RespectAbility’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

“I am incredibly excited to join RespectAbility as its next leader, building on the powerful work of the organization’s co-founders, board, staff, Fellows, and Apprentices. As a diverse, disability-led nonprofit, RespectAbility has advocated to increase opportunity and decrease marginalization of individuals with disabilities and the stigma that persists in every facet of our society. I am eager to renew partnerships and build bridges, ensuring that RespectAbility centers those within and across the disability community who face the most barriers. Coming into RespectAbility at this critical time, we are undergoing transformational change inside and out to become a more just, equitable, and inclusive organization, and one that is deeply trusted by the communities we serve,” Ariel said.

A social justice advocate, leader, and educator, Ariel has worked to promote equity, justice, and meaningful inclusion of marginalized communities throughout their career. Ariel has been a life-long member of the disability community, growing into their first disabilities in childhood, while also supporting disabled family members. As a multiply disabled person, Ariel understands firsthand the challenges faced by those whose disabilities are not always readily apparent. [continue reading…]

RespectAbility Opens Nomination Process for First-Annual Justin Chappell Memorial Award and Steve Bartlett Award

Washington, D.C., April 4 – RespectAbility is pleased to announce two new awards in honor of Justin W. Chappell and Steve Bartlett, both key contributors to our work. Nominations for the first-annual awards are open now and will close on May 15. Winners of the awards will receive $1,000 and will be recognized in a ceremony.

headshot of Justin Chappell wearing glasses grayscale photo

Justin W. Chappell

The Justin Chappell Memorial Award honors a former or current Apprentice of the National Leadership Program who demonstrates a strong commitment to the advancement of the disability community in policy, entertainment, or philanthropy. This award honors Justin W. Chappell, who devoted his life to human and disability rights and passed away on September 9, 2021.

Steve Bartlett is smiling and wearing a black suit, white shirt, a spotted tie and an american flag pin on his jacket, grayscale photo

Steve Bartlett

The Steve Bartlett Award recognizes and honors an individual in the private or public sector who demonstrates a strong commitment to using the political system to advance public policy in support of people with disabilities. The award recognizes local, state, and national leaders who advocate policies that help to advance opportunities for people with disabilities in different areas including economic growth, educational excellence and achievement, sustainability, workforce and employment, and equity. This award is in honor of Steve Bartlett, former Chairperson of RespectAbility, former member of Congress (1983-1991) and former mayor of Dallas. [continue reading…]

RespectAbility Announces Major Expansion

Building on Momentum as Capacity Grows, New Hires Pave the Way for Greater Societal Impact

Los Angeles, April 3 – RespectAbility, a diverse, disability-led nonprofit that works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities and that advances policies and practices that empower people with disabilities to have a better future, continues to expand its scope with five new hires across the entire organization.

The new team members – who collectively bring more than 50 years of experience in fields such as adult education, the entertainment industry, and corporate fundraising – include:

Jacquill Moss, Entertainment Media Program Coordinator; Graciano Petersen, Senior Director for Training, Culture, and Leadership Development; Theresa Soares, Media Business Development Associate; Joy St. Juste, Director of Marketing and Communications; and Wally Tablit, Director of State Policy.

These new hires will ensure RespectAbility is able to continue its mission of fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. [continue reading…]

Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.

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