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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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Luca’s Casual Inclusion of Disability Creates a More Inclusive and Accepting Society

Character art for Massimo, who only has one arm

Massimo in Luca

Los Angeles, June 24 – Disney/Pixar’s newest film Luca has tackled several areas of inclusion – including one often not highlighted – disability. This film features characters who are sea monsters including Luca (Jacob Tremblay) and Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) who travel to land and meet a new human friend Giulia (Emily Berman). When Luca and Alberto meet Giulia’s father Massimo, viewers see that he only has one arm. When Luca asks him how it happened, he says in a scary voice, “A sea monster ate it.” After a beat, he reveals he was just kidding and that he was born like that. This is the only acknowledgment of his disability. It is refreshing to see a character with a disability like this and have it be just part of him and not a big plot point. It really hammers home the lesson of acceptance in this movie. The dad not having an arm at first made him really scary, but it is just a part of him that people don’t understand.

Ashley Eakin, a writer/director who was born with a limb difference, also agrees that Luca has handled this representation well. “Luca is a great example of how we can include representation of people with different bodies in all of our content. Too often the character with some type of disability or limb difference is the villain or scary. While Massimo is brash, he is also a talented chef and caring father. They even make light of the way he lost his limb with ultimately explaining it was just the way he came into the world.” [continue reading…]

Cheryl L. Bedford, Founder of Women of Color Unite, Ignites a Spark to Uplift All

42 people with disabilities, an ASL interpreter and Cheryl Bedford in a zoom meeting together.Los Angeles, CA, June 24 – “You help the most marginalized person, everybody else rises,” Cheryl L. Bedford told the 30 emerging and mid-career creatives participating in RespectAbility’s Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities, which kicked off the first session of its third round this Tuesday. Bedford who returned as a keynote speaker after rave responses from Lab alumni, spoke about being “a rebel and a trouble-maker” in the entertainment industry.

“Turning fear into action” and “fighting for the marginalized” are two key points of Cheryl’s work, but the most inspiring part of listening to her speak is how she embodies that spirit of activism in every aspect of her life and action, offering complete support to those who have been kept down while calling out the others who don’t show up when they say they will. She opens the door for everyone to boldly proclaim “I’m that person.” [continue reading…]

Alumni of RespectAbility’s Summer Lab for Entertainment Professionals Welcome Incoming 2021 Cohort With Advice and Conversation Around Inclusive Casting and Development

10 people with disabilities on a Zoom meeting together.Los Angeles, June 24 – The first day of this year’s Entertainment Lab for Professionals with Disabilities introduced the Summer 2021 cohort to a group of successful Lab alumni who have used the program to springboard into their entertainment careers prioritizing disability inclusion. Two of these individuals include Ava Rigelhaupt, a 2020 Lab alumna who also served as a RespectAbility Entertainment Media and Communications Fellow in Spring 2021, and April Caputi, a 2019 Lab alumna. Caputi now is working as a Casting Associate through The Walt Disney Company’s Executive Incubator Program while Rigelhaupt just started as a Casting Intern with Nickelodeon. [continue reading…]

All Riders: The Fight for Accessibility is a poignant look at the intersectionality of accessibility in NYC

New York City, June 17 – Primary elections are underway in NYC and New Yorkers are thinking hard about the issues that matter most to them. Accessibility and disability and social justice are at the forefront of many minds, which makes All Riders: The Fight for Accessibility a perfect film to watch before heading to the booth. Shot the year before the COVID-19 pandemic, All Riders takes a poignant look at the intersectionality of unmet access needs within the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Often thought of as synonymous with accessible transportation because of its extensive transit system, The Big Apple has continually fallen short of its goal to become “the most accessible city in the world.” Out of over 400 stations, less than 30% are accessible, a portion of those accessible in only one direction, and with daily elevator failures close to 25% based on data from 2014-2015, that can leave New Yorkers with less than 20% of stations accessible at any one time across the massive five borough system. This is a dismal number considering the Americans with Disabilities Act, which celebrates its 31st birthday this July, requires that all stations be accessible under federal law. [continue reading…]

Meet Cole & Charisma: The YouTube Influencers Shedding Light on Inter-Abled Relationships and Reshaping Views of Life with Spinal Cord Injury

Los Angeles, CA, June 14 – When YouTuber and disability advocate Cole Sydnor decided to ask out the cute girl who worked at his physical therapy gym, he had no way of knowing that he was about to ask out his future wife. Nor did he know that in doing so, he and his future wife, Charisma, would go on to build a following of over 2 million people across various social media platforms.

After dating for a few months, Cole and Charisma decided to start a YouTube channel called Roll With Cole & Charisma. The YouTube channel originally started as a way to give their friends and family insight into what an inter-abled relationship looks like. What Cole and Charisma didn’t realize was just how much their story resonated with other people. After three years, they have amassed a subscriber base of over 600,000 fans on YouTube alone. [continue reading…]

Building an Equitable Recovery: RespectAbility Advises Washington’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board on Solutions for People with Disabilities

Seattle, WA, June 10 – This week, Washington state’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board met to discuss policies and priorities for moving the Evergreen State’s economy forward. 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 Washington’s 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.”

There are 478,673 working-age Washingtonians living with some form of disability. In the economic expansion prior to COVID-19, fully 42 percent of them had jobs. However, because of COVID, more than 1 million workers with disabilities have lost their jobs nationwide. Now, as more Americans get vaccinated and more people get back to work, it is crucial that policy makers implement best practices. [continue reading…]

Krista Ramirez-Villatoro Wants to Create a More Accessible Athletic World

Krista Ramirez-Villatoro playing tennis. She is a wheelchair user.

Krista Ramirez-Villatoro

Los Angeles, June 9 – Krista Ramirez-Villatoro is a self-proclaimed “Intersectionality Queen.” As a Latina/Hispanic, disabled woman who is part of the LGBTQ+ community, she’s learning to advocate for herself and speak up for her specific needs. “Other people don’t know what you need. I think that’s one of the mistakes I made in undergrad – assuming people knew what I needed,” Ramirez-Villatoro reflects.

In 2005, Ramirez-Villatoro acquired an “incomplete” spinal cord injury, meaning that there was no full nerve damage. At first, “I didn’t want to be seen as a disabled person,” Ramirez-Villatoro said. Unlearning internalized ableism, she learned “it’s okay to be disabled.” Being disabled “doesn’t mean we lost any value,” Ramirez-Villatoro emphasizes. [continue reading…]

RespectAbility Congratulates Spring 2021 National Leadership Fellowship Graduates

Talented Young Leaders Are the Future of the Disability Rights Movement

Black and white photos of 15 Spring 2021 RespectAbility Fellows

RespectAbility Spring 2021 Fellows

Rockville, MD, June 9 – Thirteen talented young adults, the majority of whom have disabilities and all of whom are passionate about ensuring equal opportunities for people with disabilities, have just completed RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program. Two Spring 2021 graduates have been offered full-time positions with RespectAbility and a third has been offered a paid internship with Nickelodeon.

The National Leadership Program trains leaders who are committed to disability issues and plan to go into careers in public policy, advocacy, public relations, journalism, the entertainment industry, diversity, equity and inclusion, fundraising, nonprofit management or faith-based inclusion. The program enables participants to gain skills and contacts while making a positive difference for people with disabilities. [continue reading…]

Building an Equitable Recovery: RespectAbility Advises Maryland Governor’s Workforce Development Board (GWDB) on Solutions for People with Disabilities

Annapolis, MD, June 9 – This week, the Maryland Governor’s Workforce Development Board (GWDB) met to discuss policies and priorities for moving the Old Line State’s economy forward. 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 Maryland’s 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.”

There are 324,652 working-age Marylanders living with some form of disability. In the economic expansion prior to COVID-19, fully 43.6 percent of them had jobs. However, because of COVID, more than 1 million workers with disabilities have lost their jobs nationwide. Now, as more Americans get vaccinated and more people get back to work, it is crucial that policy makers implement best practices. [continue reading…]

Blind and Low Vision Leaders Gain Opportunities for Careers in Public Policy and Nonprofit Management

Breakthrough Fox Family Foundation Grant Enables People to Go from Pity to Power

Logos for Fox Family Foundation and RespectAbility with a plus sign between themLos Angeles, CA, June 4 – Throughout history, people who are blind or have low vision have been regarded with pity. Yet, from entertainers Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles to Jacob Bolotin, MD and elected leaders State Sen. Torrey Westrom and former Gov. David Paterson, it is clear that people with visual disabilities have the skill and fortitude necessary to rise to the highest levels of influence, impact, and success.

A new Fox Family Foundation grant will enable fifteen young leaders with low or no vision to join RespectAbility’s virtual National Leadership Program. The program offers intensive training to foster and advance opportunities in public policy, civic engagement, and nonprofit management. Fellows who participate in the program through the Fox grant are eligible to receive $15 per hour for up to 360 hours of learning and work.  Thanks to this new partnership talented young leaders from the blind and low vision communities will truly be able to be the rising tide who lifts all ships as program participants will gain access to careers in public policy and nonprofit leadership while helping others in the disability community achieve success. [continue reading…]

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