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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

Issue Voter Guides

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Paper Spiders Presents an Honest and Gut-Wrenching Portrayal of Living with Mental Health Issues

Los Angeles, May 15 – This Mental Health Awareness Month, the new film Paper Spiders spares us feel good moments for the sake of providing us with an honest look at paranoia. The film juggles comedy and drama, but never at the expense of properly showing the life-changing severity of its respective disability. It is highly recommended if you are looking for a realistic drama anchored by great performances.

Paper Spiders’ pathos lies in its raw and often unrestrained examination of parent and child relationships. A recent film comparison which effectively explores similar themes would be Greta Grewig’s Lady Bird. However, unlike Lady Bird, Paper Spiders demonstrates the challenges of coming of age while bound by unforeseen obligations at home.

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Hot, Lonely, Disabled in Your Area: by Fatima Liaqat

Fatima Liaqat smiling headshot

Fatima Liaqat

Los Angeles, May 13 – When I think of my journey with mental and chronic physical illness, I think of loneliness. From a young age, I learned to despise authority. My OCD would cause my family to yell at me when I would clean and reorganize things around the house, which really meant color and size coordinating things that didn’t belong together. Nobody understood why I needed to put things in order, and I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t just let me do that since it would make my brain feel better. I also would have unwanted recurring thoughts all day long, and I would express my fear and exhaustion due to these thoughts to my parents, but they did not comfort me nor seek help for me. I guess I should state here, I grew up in Pakistan, and the idea of seeking professional psychiatric help for me never occurred to my guardians.

At school, I would get admonished for not making friends, for ignoring my classmates, for not speaking up in class, for not following the rules well enough. I was eventually put in a special needs class where I received very little supervision and was allowed to read and play, which I loved very much. But, to my mother, the idea of her child being different and not able to excel like the other children in class was infuriating, and she forced school administrators to put me back into regular class. [continue reading…]

Staff Spotlight on Nelly Nieblas

Nelly Nieblas smiling, seated in a wheelchair on a sidewalkNelly Nieblas is the Manager of Policy, Advocacy and Engagement at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Nieblas is a first-generation college graduate from the University of Southern California and a proud Latina with a physical disability. She also holds an MPA from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. [continue reading…]

New Report: 93% of Writers Rooms Have No Disabled or Deaf Writers

Los Angeles, CA, May 6 – A new report from Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity (TTIE), Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and Women in Film shows that more writers rooms are including BIPOC and women writers, but other communities, including the disability community, still are being left out. The report, titled “Behind The Scenes: The State of Inclusion and Equity in TV Writing,” covers the results of an online survey with 1,226 participants, plus results from two focus groups.

According to the report, “93.0% of writers said their most recent writers room had no Disabled or Deaf writers.” Upper-level Disabled or Deaf writers are even more scarce, with only 2.6% of writers reporting that their most recent writers room had at least one upper level Disabled or Deaf writer.

In rooms with Disabled and Deaf representation, 91.7% of Disabled writers said they were the only staffed writers from their underrepresented communities in their most recent writers room. [continue reading…]

Building an Equitable Recovery: RespectAbility Advises Texas Workforce Commission on Solutions for Texans with Disabilities

Submitted testimony will help inform state wide efforts to rebuild the economy and get people with disabilities back to work.

Austin, TX, May 5 – This week, the Texas Workforce Commission met to discuss policies and priorities for moving the Lone Star State’s economy forward. In response, the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbiltiy weighed in with their perspective on how to advance new opportunities for workers with disabilities and close crucial gaps in Texas’ economy.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said the Honorable Steve Bartlett, former Member of Congress, the former Mayor of Dallas and current Chairman of RespectAbility. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to implement policies that will drive a truly equitable recovery that helps people with disabilities and other marginalized communities get back to work.” [continue reading…]

RespectAbility Contributes to Online Racial Equity Dialogue with Ideas on Metrics, Measures and Best Practices

Washington, D.C., May 5 – This past week, RespectAbility contributed to the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor’s online dialogue to solicit ideas, insights, and innovations from the disability community about advancing racial and social equity. This dialogue is only the latest example of how the new Biden-Harris Administration is seeking to address the “entrenched disparities in our laws and public policies.”

On his very first day in office, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985 launching an “ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda that matches the scale of the opportunities and challenges that we face.” This is critical news for the 12.8 million Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) with disabilities who have long been harmed by structural racism and who are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 and resulting economic crisis. [continue reading…]

Ollie Cantos: A Driving Force in Reshaping Intersectional Visibility

“The fundamental DNA among all those of good will remains the same: meaningful inclusion and true empowerment.”

Ollie Cantos writing on a flip chart holding a large white cane, as Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi and Steve Bartlett look on seated at a table. Sign language interpreter is in the lower left of the frame. American flag in the backgroundLos Angeles, May 2 – Having worked in inclusive public policy since the 1990s, Ollie Cantos is a firm believer in getting comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to create change in the world. Currently serving as Special Assistant in the Office of the Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) as well as Vice Chair of RespectAbility’s Board of Advisors, Cantos assures that the frank conversations birthed from uncomfortable questions have the very real and attainable potential to transform negative vehicles of law, policy, and practice into empowered ones. The courage toward honest discourse of convulsive topics has diversified America’s governing power as years progress. [continue reading…]

Staff Spotlight on Vanni Le

Vanni Le smiling in front of a staircase

Vanni Le

Vanni Le is RespectAbility’s first-ever Entertainment Outreach Program Manager. She brought brand strategy and program management experience from both the entertainment and nonprofit fields, having previously worked at the Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, March of Dimes and most recently A+E Networks.

“Vanni Le has only been on our team since November of last year, but she already has made a massive difference,” said Lauren Appelbaum, Vice President of Communications at RespectAbility. “As our work in the entertainment industry continues to rapidly expand, we are so lucky to have her on our team.” [continue reading…]

Drought: A Feature Film Abundant with Heart

Still from Drought with the four stars looking at something in an empty fieldLos Angeles, April 29 – Four people. One ice cream truck. One historic drought. One oncoming storm. Set in 1993 North Carolina, Drought is a feature film that examines sibling dynamics, dealing with differences, learning to understand the people you love, and accepting yourself.

In the film, a younger sister, Sam takes on the parenting role of watching over her autistic brother, Carl. When their mom gets sent to jail, the siblings’ estranged older sister, Lillian, shows up at the house to help out. Spurred by Carl’s love of weather and storm chasing, Lillian and Sam take their dad’s ice cream truck to help Carl chase the impending tempest. The siblings are accompanied on the journey by Sam’s friend, Lewis. [continue reading…]

Building an Equitable Recovery: RespectAbility Advises Workforce Board on Bipartisan Solutions for Angelenos with Disabilities

Submitted testimony will help inform metro area efforts to rebuild the economy and get people with disabilities back to work.

Washington, D.C., April 28 – Last week, the Los Angeles Regional Planning Unit of the Los Angeles County Workforce Development Board invited subject matter experts, self-advocates, community members and their constituents to provide ideas about local and regional planning efforts to build a more equitable economy in a post-COVID world. In response, the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility weighed in with their perspective on how to advance new opportunities for workers with disabilities and close crucial gaps in outcomes for people from marginalized communities.

“The Local Plan and the Regional Plan start out with an admirable goal,” said Nelly Nieblas, RespectAbility’s Manager of Policy, Advocacy and Engagement. “However, neither plan follows up on this aspiration by including people with disabilities in their demographic sections. There are multiple missed opportunities to include people with disabilities within the plans. We hope that we can partner with the Board to fix these challenges in the months ahead.” [continue reading…]

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