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New A&E Documentary Special by Marlee Matlin Aims to Change Misperceptions about Deaf Families

Follows Season 4 of Born This Way, unscripted reality show breaking down disability stigmas, which was nominated for four Creative Arts Emmy Awards last weekend

Los Angeles, California, Sept. 10 – On the heels of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards this weekend, a new documentary special will air on A&E on Wednesday. Executive produced by Academy Award-winner Marlee Matlin, Deaf Out Loud follows three predominantly deaf families as they raise their children in a hearing world. With many differing opinions about how deaf children should be raised swirling in the social consciousness, these families work to forge their own paths forward and combat the daily social stigmas many deaf people face.

Misconceptions exist about deaf individuals – from schooling, to employment and raising a family. Shows like Deaf Out Loud aim to change these misperceptions and has the potential to bring awareness and better understanding about people who are deaf. This show delves into the various ways Deaf culture is expressed and embraced in the United States. The three families will show viewers the diversity of Deaf culture today, and how it differs from hearing cultures.

“People of all backgrounds need to see positive representations of themselves, both as people with satisfying personal lives and as people who can perform successfully in the workplace,” Executive Producer Jonathan Murray said. “Those positive images will change for the better the way the greater society sees people who are deaf and those with disabilities, opening up more opportunities for them.” [continue reading…]

Remembering George H.W. Bush

President George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act into law, surrounded by two wheelchair users and two people standing behind him.

President George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act into law.

Washington, D.C., Dec. 3 – On November 30, 2018, America lost a champion for people with disabilities, President George H.W. Bush. In 1990, Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law, which prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities. The law improved the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities.

“Among President George H.W. Bush’s lifetime accomplishments, perhaps his most profound and impactful is the ADA,” said Hon. Steve Bartlett, who serves as Chairman of RespectAbility’s Board of Directors and who worked with Bush on the ADA. “He was the originator and the force behind the ADA. He consistently gave others the credit. Indeed, he announced his proposal that became the ADA the evening before his inaugural, surprising everyone in Washington except Boyden Gray and Justin Dart. The President allowed Congress to do the legislating of course, but he personally guided the process gently but firmly for 18 months. Millions of Americans with disabilities, and their friends and families, live better lives because of George H.W. Bush. Thank you Mr. President.”

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, RespectAbility’s President, wrote an article about President Bush for the Huffington Post in 2015. The message remains the same. An excerpt is below:

“Because of ADA, people with hearing or vision differences are able to access computers and telecommunications devices. It’s the difference between being a part of our community and being in prison. There are many, many people including Justin Dart, Bobby Silverstein, Lex Frieden and many others to thank for the ADA. However, chief amongst them is President George H.W. Bush.

Today many people think that ‘disability issues’ are the domain of Democrats. But that was not the case back in 1990 when ADA was passed, and should not be that way now.

President George H.W. Bush wearing John's Crazy Socks to Barbara Bush's funeral. Bush is in a wheelchair being pushed by his son, President George W. Bush.

President George H.W. Bush wearing John’s Crazy Socks to Barbara Bush’s funeral

President George H.W. Bush (Bush 41) cares deeply about disability issues. Pre-ADA, as Vice President, he met with disability leaders. According to the outstanding new book Enabling Actsby Lennard J. Davis, Bush spoke of his personal experiences with disability with his brother Prescot, who was born with the use of only one eye; his uncle John Walker, who had polio, his daughter, who died in infancy of leukemia; his son Neil, who was severely dyslexic; and his son Marvin, who had had a colostomy as a result of ulcerative colitis just a few months earlier at the age of 21. At the time, Bush 41 did not personally have any disabilities. But he took what he learned from experiences of loved ones around him for good. He was a champion for, and the signer of, the ADA.”

Read the entire article on The Huffington Post.

Candidates Who Support Opportunities for People with Disabilities Won Big

Election 2018: Candidates who support opportunities for people with disabilities win big. RespectAbility logo. image of American flag with disability symbol (wheelchair) instead of starsWashington, D.C., Nov. 19 – Key senate and gubernatorial candidates from both sides of the political aisle who support opportunities for people with disabilities won big this election, showing that disability rights is a winning issue.

There are 56 million people with disabilities (one in five Americans), more than 35 million of whom are eligible voters (one-sixth of the electorate). According to a recent survey, 74 percent of likely voters have a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with disabilities. Voters are more likely to support candidates who prioritize ensuring that children with disabilities get the education and training they need to succeed as well expanding job and career opportunities for people with disabilities.

“Candidates for office ignore the disability community at their peril,” said former U.S. Representative and Dallas Mayor Steve Bartlett. Bartlett, who was a primary author of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, is the chairman of RespectAbility.

Several candidates responded earlier during the campaign season to a disability issues questionnaire for Senate and gubernatorial candidates put out by RespectAbility, a nonpartisan, nonprofit national organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. Candidates from both sides of the aisle completed the questionnaire, showing that disability rights is a bipartisan issue. The responses also are geographically-diverse, coming from states around the country, as politicians are paying more attention to the disability community. RespectAbility is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes.

Others submitted proclamations for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) to RespectAbility. This year, people with disabilities and employers have clear reason to celebrate. More than 343,000 Americans with disabilities got new jobs last year, a fourfold improvement in job gains compared to the previous year. Expanding employment opportunities is bipartisan, as both Democrats and Republicans are quick to recognize the abilities of what people with disabilities can accomplish.

“Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” said RespectAbility’s President, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. “People with disabilities deserve equal opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence just like anyone else.”

Of those who responded to the national questionnaire or provided NDEAM proclamations, 20 candidates have won their election. These include Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), Gov. Kate Brown (D-OR), Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ), Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD), Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR), Gov. David Ige (D-HI), Gov. Kay Ivey (R-AL), State Sen. Laura Kelly (D-KS), Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Businessman J.B. Pritzker (D-IL), Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak (D-NV), Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) and Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA), all of whom won races for governor; Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who won their senate races. [continue reading…]

Vital Disability Voter 2018 Info

voters in wheelchairs and with a dog votingWashington, D.C., Nov. 6 – Below you will find two up-to-the-minute resources to help you this election:

  1. Straight Q&A’s with candidates on disability issues organized by state. If you do not see a candidate from a senate or gubernatorial race, or local candidates in New York City and Los Angeles, it is because the candidate chose not to answer the questionnaire. RespectAbility is nonpartisan and all candidates were given an equal chance to make voters aware of their views on disability issues.
  2. Apps and information on where to vote, how to vote and who to contact if there is an issue. As voters go to the polls, it is vital to know that voters with disabilities have every right to vote. If you have a problem voting due to lack of access for disability, contact 866-OUR-VOTE, or other resources listed below, immediately. Please let us know as well by emailing LaurenA@RespectAbility.org. View all of this information on one place on our blog: Disability Voter Resource Guide

Now please go vote! The disability community is 56 million citizens strong. Show your power at the ballot box! [continue reading…]

Disability Voter Resource Guide 2018

Washington, D.C., Nov. 5 – As voters head to the polls, many are concerned about various access issues from physical accessibility to voter ID laws. This is a federal election year; additionally, many state legislative seats, state executive offices, local offices and ballot amendments will be voted on. We’ve compiled resources provided by general Election Day voter rights organizations as well as those provided by various disability groups.

See below for apps and information on where to vote, how to vote and who to contact in case there is an issue. Voters with disabilities have every right to vote. If you have a problem voting due to lack of access for disability, contact 866-OUR-VOTE to talk to lawyers on hand to answer Election Day questions and concerns about voting procedures, or other resources listed below, immediately. Please let us know as well by emailing LaurenA@RespectAbility.org. Did we miss an important resource? Share with us and we’ll update this guide. [continue reading…]

Speechless Highlights Importance of Self Advocacy and Independence

Watch Speechless on ABC, Fridays at 8:30 p.m. ET.

View Education Resources on Disability Issues and Tools in Spanish

Micah Fowler on the Red Carpet at the Creative Arts Emmys

Micah Fowler

Los Angeles, California, Nov. 5 — In the U.S., schools were not required to provide special education until 1975. Today, the fight for inclusive education remains a constant battle for parents and students. Speechless, a comedy starring Micah Fowler, a young adult with cerebral palsy, as J.J., a high school senior with cerebral palsy, shines the spotlight on the importance of young adults taking over the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process as they grow older.

Creating an IEP, an individual education plan that outlines what a student with a disability needs to be successful in school, can be a daunting challenge for parents and often stressful as there is much to consider when determining the education of a child. The implementation of an IEP is integral for children with disabilities. An IEP is a formal plan for students who have been identified to need accommodations specific to their individual disability in the public-school system. In addition to accommodations, the classroom can be tailored within a general classroom, a smaller group or one-on-one instruction. [continue reading…]

Award Winning Actress Tatiana Lee Says Society is Ready for Disability Representation


Winner of the 2018 Christopher Reeve Acting Scholarship, Media Access Awards

Delbert Whetter, Tatiana Lee and Lauren Appelbaum on the Red Carpet at the Media Access Awards

Delbert Whetter, Tatiana Lee and Lauren Appelbaum on the Red Carpet at the Media Access Awards

Beverly Hills, California, Nov. 2 – There is a conspicuous lack of disability representation in media. The Center for Disease Control estimates that nearly one in five Americans has some type of disability. Yet people with disabilities often are absent in acting, advertising and modeling. Today’s beauty standards often do not include depictions of disabilities. Tatiana Lee, an actress and model with Spina Bifida, is working on improving representation of disabilities in media. “Society is ready for disability representation,” she says.

Lee’s work toward inclusion within the worlds of both modeling and acting led to her receiving the Christopher Reeves Acting Scholarship at the Media Access Awards, which recently has formed a partnership with Easterseals Southern California, Thursday. The ceremony honors media and entertainment trailblazers advancing disability awareness and inclusion.

“Thank you all for giving me the tools to have a fighting chance to finally not feel invisible to the world and to ensure that future generations don’t feel the same,” Lee said while accepting the award. “I’m so honored and I will continue this journey and do all I can to ensure Hollywood is accessible to anyone else that dares to dream big!” [continue reading…]

Micah Fowler, Chris Ulmer, Cal Ripken Jr. and Others Celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month in Series of PSA’s

Images of Micah Fowler, two people from the ODEP PSA, and Chris Ulmer. Text: NDEAM 2018Los Angeles, California, Oct. 31 – All month RespectAbility, a nonprofit fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, has been celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). More than 343,000 Americans with disabilities got new jobs last year, a fourfold improvement in job gains compared to the previous year. An annual celebration, NDEAM is dedicated to raising awareness about disability employment issues and celebrating the incredible contributions of people with disabilities.

In a PSA he created for RespectAbility, Micah Fowler called attention to the fact that while “more than 300,000 people with disabilities joined the American workforce last year, there are over 14 million more people with disabilities who still want to work.”

So he issued a simple challenge: “I challenge each and every company and corporation in America to hire at least one person with a disability before the end of 2018.”

[continue reading…]

Senate Report Argues Outdated Laws Leave People with Disabilities Behind in Today’s Economy

U.S. Senate seal. Text: Disability Employment: Outdated Laws Leave People with Disabilities Behind in Today’s Economy Minority Staff ReportWashington D.C., Oct. 31 – During October 2018, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (WA) and the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) wrote a report entitled “Outdated Laws Leave People with Disabilities Behind in Today’s Economy.”  The report claims that laws are not up to date with current disability employment policy and provides an update about the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014.

The report reflects on the modern legal landscape that directly supports the success of the 56 million Americans living with disabilities. Modern disability employment policy includes five laws: the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act of 2008, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Underpinning the success of these laws is the legal framework created by the landmark 1999 decision made by the Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C. That decision calls for “the most integrated appropriate setting” also has critical consequences for efforts to get more people with disabilities into the workforce. Likewise, 36 states have passed Employment First laws which were created by state level policy makers to support competitive integrative employment for people with disabilities. [continue reading…]

Gail Williamson, Agent, Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award from Media Access Awards

headshot of Gail Williamson

Gail Williamson

Beverly Hills, California, Oct. 30 — As the “only agent in the country with a specialty of representing actors with disabilities,” Gail Williamson says that it is her ultimate goal that the need for specialty agents is eliminated. Someday, she hopes, agents, casting directors and producers will be able to accommodate actors with disabilities themselves, without needing to call her. First and foremost, Williamson considers herself an advocate for people with disabilities.

“I’m not an agent because I love being an agent. I’m an agent because I love the power of changing society through images,” she said. “I love that a simple image can change [people’s] minds.”

Williamson will be presented with the Norman Lear – Geri Jewell Lifetime Achievement Award at the Media Access Awards, which recently has formed a partnership with Easterseals Southern California, on November 1, 2018. The ceremony honors media and entertainment trailblazers advancing disability awareness and inclusion. Williamson is an indispensable advocate for disability representation in television and film. She demonstrates that with a simple phrase: “Any kid with Down syndrome in the U.S. who wants to act, I’ve probably got their picture.”

“We are honored to present the Norman Lear – Geri Jewell Lifetime Achievement Award to Gail Williamson who has done so much for the inclusion of people with disabilities in media,” said Deborah Calla, Chair of the Media Access Awards. “Gail was knocking on doors decades ago when the conversation about inclusion wasn’t a conversation at all. We owe her so much.” [continue reading…]

Gov. Sununu Confirms Commitment to Jobs for People with Disabilities in New Hampshire

Gov. Christopher Sununu headshot

Gov. Christopher Sununu

Washington, D.C., Oct. 30 – Gov. Christopher Sununu officially has proclaimed October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in New Hampshire.

“People with disabilities bring a diverse array of talent, vision, and skill to their place of work, their communities, and our state,” said Sununu in the proclamation. “With a growing economy, businesses need talented employees to meet their needs and workplaces that welcome the talents of all people, including people with disabilities, and help to create more inclusive workplaces and a stronger economy.”

This proclamation comes after a year of steady job growth. Last year, people with disabilities gained 1,335 jobs in New Hampshire. [continue reading…]

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