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Press Releases

Code of the Freaks reveals the not-so-secret code to disability representation in mainstream cinema 

Film will premiere as the Opening Night selection of The ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York and will be shown virtually on March 31, 2020, followed by a Q&A with Salome Chasnoff, Lawrence Carter-Long and Mat Fraser.

New York City, March 31 – Have you ever been online, just aimlessly scrolling through the web and found an article that makes a point you’ve been trying to get across for years, but have never been able to express: one of the moments where you can’t help but to exclaim that “they put it into words”? When it comes to the topic of disability representation in mainstream cinema, Code of the Freaks, directed by Salome Chasnoff, does just that, except for instead of being an 800-word opinion piece, it’s a brilliant, clever and expertly-crafted, hour-ish long film.

Touting a comedic disclaimer that “no people with disabilities were harmed in the making of this film,” Code opens with clips from the 1392 movie Freaks – from which it draws its name – and uses these examples as a jumping-off point for the discussion to come on disability representation in mainstream cinema. It takes clips from movies that include characters with disabilities and picks apart the way those characters, their stories and the situations are portrayed – including what the directors and writers got right, if anything, and what they did terribly (in most instances) wrong. It brings with it an important message in the fact that film, in many ways, functions as an educational medium – insofar as introducing people to experiences they might be unfamiliar with – meaning that what they ‘teach’ goes a lot further and deeper than one might think.

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Stimulus Package Becomes Law – Here’s What It Means for People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., March 27 – President Trump signed into law today the $2 trillion-dollar emergency stimulus aimed at propping up the economy during the current crisis. This law is unprecedented in its scope and is meant to help our nation respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even now, government agencies are going to work to implement the new law.

Millions of Americans living with disabilities are wondering what this new law means for them and whether they will see any benefit. The short answer is yes, but how far the law will go to help people with disabilities who are uniquely at-risk to the impact of the virus remains an open question. [continue reading…]

Senate Passes Stimulus Package, but Will it Help People with Disabilities?

Washington, D.C., March 26 – Last night Senate leaders voted unanimously to move forward on the $2 trillion-dollar emergency stimulus bill meant to help our nation respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill, originally called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), now goes to the House of Representatives for a vote. If passed, then it will go to the President’s desk to become law.

You can read more about the bill on the Senate Appropriations Committee website HERE.

However, what does this mean for the millions of Americans living with disabilities? What provisions will specifically impact or help the disability community? What help is there for actual people with disabilities who are uniquely at-risk to the impact of the virus?

RespectAbility and a host of other disability advocacy organizations have been working around the clock to answer these questions for the past several days. Those that lobby have been fighting hard to include key provisions into the law that will help the more than 56 million Americans with disabilities. [continue reading…]

SXSW Winner “Single” is not Here to Make you Feel Good – or to be a Love Story

*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***  

Scene from Single with Kim and Jake on a blind date together inside a barLos Angeles, Calif., March 26 – Rarely does a film come along that feels entirely refreshing, not just in terms of the genre, but in everything it does: “Single” is one of those hidden gems. The new Ashley Eakin film, Special Jury Recognition Winner at SXSW 2020 for Narrative Shorts, shines with its gorgeous, saturated, Hollywood-polished cinematography, authentic representation and undeniable assertation that it is not a love story – while tackling the complexities of dating while disabled.

“Single” tells the story of a day in the life of Kim: a millennial looking to live her life and maybe find love along the way – or at least a chance to get off of Tinder. As the film opens, she can be seen acting like any other twenty-something: buying a bottle of wine, talking on the phone to her friend and telling her about the blind date she’s going on, set up by her mom’s friend from book club.

She also has one arm. [continue reading…]

Taking Time for Mental Breaks by Watching TV Series and Films with Great Authentic Disability Representation

an African American woman in a wheelchair posing for the camera, smiling

Tatiana Lee

Los Angeles, California, March 25 – I’m a person living with a disability. I was born with Spina Bifida, and I live in Los Angeles. Like many of you, I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. As of last week, my family and I are officially on stay-at-home orders. That means no leaving the house unless necessary, like for groceries and medical needs. This type of life is too familiar to most people with disabilities, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a difficult time. Some are self-isolated and can’t get the care they need. Having a chronic health condition makes you feel doomed to be in contact with anyone, even for everyday care needs.

I am very fortunate I have family that helps to keep me safe and healthy. It’s great to know I’m not totally isolated because I am with my mom and sister. That is not the case for many of my peers. It’s unsettling to live in a moment of constant uncertainty, especially during times of medical rationing, knowing that we (the disability community) will probably be the last to receive proper care. But we must remain strong and optimistic, and healthy during this time. [continue reading…]

Crip Camp Premieres on Netflix, Bringing Disability Revolution and Inclusion to All

Los Angeles, Calif., March 25 – The groundbreaking Crip Camp, winner of the 2020 Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival for U.S. Documentary, premieres today on Netflix. This film, which chronicles the early days of some of the disability movement’s greatest civil rights advocates, comes at an extremely important time as people with disabilities fight for equal treatment, including that hospitals are not pushed into medical rationing during COVID-19.

Read this reflection by RespectAbility Board Member Neil Jacobson, a former Camp Jened camper, and watch the documentary today:

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Disability Advocates Work to Ensure That COVID-19 Stimulus Package Doesn’t Harm People with Disabilities

Looking for the most up-to-date information? View www.respectability.org/covid-19.

Washington, D.C., Mar. 23 – As negotiations in the United States Senate bog down around a proposed $1.6 trillion economic stimulus package, disability advocates seek allies to ensure that the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic helps, rather than injures, the largest minority community in America.

The nation is facing unprecedented social, economic and health challenges at every level of society and the 1-in-5 people with disabilities are uniquely vulnerable to the disruptive consequences of COVID-19. Whether we are talking about issues of food insecurity, access to healthcare/testing, switching to telework, or life-or-death medical decisions, the disability community is deeply impacted by these events. [continue reading…]

Disabled Americans Demand Hospitals Aren’t Pushed into Medical Rationing

People with preexisting medical conditions urge others to heed CDC guidance, for suppliers to ramp up medical supplies, and for medical professionals to keep them alive

Washington, D.C., March 22 – As more Americans begin to heed warnings and self-isolate in their homes, the disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility urges all Americans to do so without delay.

“Millions of Americans – myself included – are at high risk from the virus and from medical rationing,” said Matan Koch, who is a quadriplegic with asthma and works closely on disability issues as the director of RespectAbility’s California office. A graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, he knows what it means to face discrimination everywhere, including in the healthcare system. [continue reading…]

“You Don’t Look Blind”: by Abigail Shaw

Abigail Shaw smiling headshotNew York City, March 21 – On one afternoon in late January, I was in the locker room of a gym. As an admirer of nature and being outside, I would have loved to have done my workout in Central Park, but slushy streets are not an ideal ingredient for successful road running. Besides, none of my reliable friends and sighted guides were available to meet up for a run. Being a blind athlete, I usually train and race long distances with a sighted guide, using a fabric tether as we run in tandem. That meant that my workout was limited to the good ol’ treadmill; my least favorite piece of gym equipment.

“Are you training that dog?” a woman at the locker next to mine asked, as I toweled off my wet hair. “No, she’s my guide dog. She’s already trained.” This is a comment I frequently get when we are out and about. When I tell people that I am not training my dog, that we are an active team, I usually get the same response regardless of context, “Oh, you don’t look blind.” [continue reading…]

The Myth of Non-Progression: by Carly Okyle

Carly Okyle headshot smiling

Carly Okyle

New York City, March 20 – Cerebral Palsy (CP) is hard to discuss, specifically because there’s such a wide spectrum of symptoms and severity to consider. While mine presents itself as a limp with balance issues and problems with spatial relations, a friend of mine with the same medical designation can wear high heels without a problem; yet, she struggles with auditory processing. Same diagnosis, different issues.

One constant in this vast continuum of CP is that doctors describe it as a non-progressive disability, meaning that symptoms don’t become increasingly more severe. I used to find this comforting. I’ve since learned that although this is accurate, it’s not entirely true. [continue reading…]

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