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Press Releases

2020 Disability Voter Guide

Three RespectAbility team members holding up signs that say "Earn My Vote". Red and blue borders. Text: 2020 Disability Voter GuideVoting has begun in the 2020 election, and the disability community has a lot at stake. The nonpartisan disability group RespectAbility has asked Democratic and Republican candidates for President, Governor and the U.S. Senate the same seven key questions about issues affecting people with disabilities. Below you can read responses from candidates who have already taken the time to address the concerns of voters with disabilities.

RespectAbility is still accepting responses to the candidate questionnaire from campaigns, so if a candidate has not answered the questions, please invite them to do so. We hope that this information will enable you to make informed decisions in this election. You can find full, detailed converge online at https://therespectabilityreport.org.


Issue Voter Guides

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Black History Representation Matters in Arts Activism and Civic Leadership: by Andrea Jennings

Andrea Jennings headshot smiling

Andrea Jennings

As a child, my beloved mom, who worked in entertainment law for major law firms, encouraged me to use my voice, and she told me that my voice was powerful. My mom made sure that I was aware of Black history and the contributions that BIPOC individuals contributed to the U.S. She demonstrated the different ways Black people have used their voices. We would speak about entertainment, the arts and law often at the dinner table. We talked about what I know today as artistic activism and artists who used their artistic platforms to advocate, such as Lena Horne, Harry Belafonte, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Sidney Poitier, Billie Holliday, Marvin Gaye, John Coltrane,  Eartha Kitt, Stevie Wonder and The Staple Singers. The list goes on. These subjects became second nature to me. However, as my mother encouraged me to use my voice, I noticed that my voice and the voices of people who looked like me were not being heard or respected. Remembering what my mother had instilled in me, I knew I had to continue to go around the hurdles before me, especially after adding disability to my identity. I was proud to be a disabled, Black woman, however, the biases were more limiting than my disability itself. [continue reading…]

The Potential of the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act for People with Disabilities

This new bill will invest $15 billion to help restore the nation’s public workforce system in response to the economic collapse following the COVID 19 pandemic

Washington, D.C., Feb. 23 – In the response to the economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) has introduced a new bill to kickstart the economy and get millions of people back to work. This new legislation is called the “Relaunching America’s Workforce Act” and it contains significant provisions that would specifically help workers with disabilities.

Impact on Individuals with Disabilities

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a much larger impact on the unemployment rates of individuals with disabilities compared to people without disabilities. Specifically, since March 2020, more than 1 in 5 workers with disabilities have lost their jobs at the hands of the coronavirus, compared to 1 in 7 individuals without disabilities. To put it another way, more than 1 million workers with disabilities have lost their job since the start of the pandemic. The Relaunching America’s Workforce Act could play an important role in helping workers with disabilities get back into the labor force. Thankfully, this legislation explicitly mentions individuals with disabilities more than 10 times, and it provides numerous recommendations to help the disability community reenter the workforce. [continue reading…]

A Short Review of “Feeling Through”

Los Angeles, Feb 18 – On this year’s Oscar Short List for Best Live Action Short Film is Feeling Through. Written and directed by Doug Roland, Feeling Through made history as the first film to star an actor, Robert Tarango, who is both deaf and legally blind.

Taking place over the course of a single night, Feeling Through centers around an unhoused teenager named Tereek, played by Steven Prescod, as he struggles to find shelter. Through his hazardous sojourn on the streets of New York City, Tereek finds a deaf-blind man who needs assistance finding his bus stop. Although he is initially reluctant, Tereek decides to help the man and embarks on a journey that will mark him indelibly. [continue reading…]

“Best Friend” Short Showcases Best Practices in Disability Representation

Los Angeles, Feb 18 – The short film, Best Friend, currently playing at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival, is a heartwarming story about a girl named Deidre and her family moving to a new city. Deidre is nervous that she will not make any friends, so her family takes her to a dog shelter to adopt a furry friend. While there, she not only finds a dog but another unexpected friend as well. [continue reading…]

Don’t Make Low-Vision Viewers Choose Between Vibrant 4K Picture and Audio Description

4K + Audio Description iconLos Angeles, CA, Feb. 17 – A few months ago, I went to Best Buy to pick-up The Invisible Man 4K Steelbook. The Invisible Man was one of my favorite films of 2020, and I knew I wanted to have the 4K version. To my surprise, when I tried the film out at home, I discovered there was no audio description on the 4K disc. I found this strange since I remember enjoying the movie in the theater with an outstanding audio description track. I discovered that only the regular Blu-ray had an audio description track, but the 4K disc did not. Upon further investigation, many popular titles, like Us, 1917, and even Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, had the audio description track only available on Blu-ray and not the 4K disc. [continue reading…]

Highlighting African Americans with Disabilities in Honor of Black History Month

Headshots of 8 black people with disabilities.Washington, D.C., Feb. 16 – As we celebrate Black History Month, which takes place every February, RespectAbility recognizes the contributions made and the important presence of African Americans in the United States. It is important to note this includes more than 5.5 million African Americans living with a disability.

Some celebrities and business leaders are using their voice to share their stories, educating people about both visible and nonvisible disabilities. They are defying the statistics and have remained highly successful with their disabilities. These role models make a big difference in setting high expectations for youth with disabilities. People with disabilities of all backgrounds can be amongst the highest achievers on earth. Harriet Tubman had Epilepsy, actress Halle Berry lives with diabetes, business leader and Shark Tank superstar Daymond John is dyslexic and Stevie Wonder is blind. Poet laureate Amanda Gorman, who had a speech impediment, recently shared her genius both at the inauguration and at the Super Bowl. Each of them is a positive role model for success. They are perfect candidates for RespectAbility’s #RespectTheAbility campaign, which is shining a light on individuals with disabilities who are succeeding in their chosen careers. [continue reading…]

Audio Description on Focus Features’ Land Allows Low-Vision Consumers to Fully Experience the Film

Robin Wright seated on a porch in a scene from Land

Robin Wright appears in Land by Robin Wright, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Daniel Power Copyright Focus Features LLC 2020.

Los Angeles, CA, Feb. 16 – At the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to watch the premiere of Robin Wright’s directorial debut, Land. I have low vision, so, luckily for me, Land was one of just two films at Sundance this year with an option to watch with audio description. More than 1 million people in the U.S. are blind and more than 12 million have low vision. Audio description is a secondary audio track that helps low-vision and blind consumers by describing the action of characters with voiceover in between lines of dialogue. [continue reading…]

War Ina Babylon: A Review of Andrew Reid’s Road to Zion

Koby Kumi-Diaka as Jahsen in the short film Road to ZionLos Angeles, Feb. 13 – Airing on-demand this coming week during the 2021 Slamdance Festival is Road to Zion, a 15-minute short directed and co-written by 2020 RespectAbility Lab alumnus Andrew Reid.

A young Jamaican man named Jahsen (played by Koby Kumi-Diaka) is deracinated from his native Kingston at an early age and supplanted in Los Angeles where he works at a restaurant as an undocumented janitor. Aspiring for more, Jahsen and his family are constantly ambushed by hardship, limiting their social mobility and perpetuating their respective forms of exploitation. [continue reading…]

Black History Month Personal Reflection: by KiAnna Dorsey

Kianna Dorsey smiling headshot on the set of The Culture at UMTVBeing a Black woman living with nut allergies in America has granted me a unique perspective on the world. From an early age I was taught to be vocal and advocate for myself. With a nut allergy as severe as mine, my parents wanted to make sure I knew when to “speak up” and ask for the ingredients or to see a label. The stakes were too high for me to be shy or afraid. If I didn’t “speak up” it could potentially cost me my life.

Although my self-advocacy all started with the intention of keeping me safe, it quickly developed as a part of who I am. I was prepared to voice my opinion and concerns because I knew that my voice matters. At the hair salon when the stylist was braiding my hair too tight, I spoke up. When a friend made an ignorant comment about the Deaf community, I spoke up. When the dance teacher didn’t provide a link to tights in my skin tone, I spoke up. [continue reading…]

Short Film “Committed” Reduces Stigma by Casting All Disabled Actors without Making Disability Part of the Plot

Poster for Committed, a short film showing at Slamdance festivalLos Angeles, Feb. 12 – Committed is a charming short film that is showing at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival about a man planning a proposal to his girlfriend. He consults their best friends to help him plan the perfect proposal. The two friends view this as the couple leaving them and they decide to sabotage the proposal by giving him bad advice.

Committed was created during the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. “We had only one weekend to write, film and edit,” said co-director, co-writer and co-star Rachel Handler, who also is an alumna of the 2020 RespectAbility Summer Lab. “The genre was ‘Buddy Comedy’ and there were a few themes we could choose from, we chose something like ‘an unlikely duo.’ My favorite part of creating a film is collaborating with my friends and colleagues, so I wrote the script with my co-producer Melanie Waldman and our friend Kara Moulter.” [continue reading…]

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