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Disability Group Inks Deal with Hollywood Heavyweight

RespectAbility and Norman Lear Center Unite to Help Hollywood Include People with Disabilities

HH&S' Director Kate Folb in between RespectAbility's President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi and Communications Director Lauren Appelbaum, all standing and smiling, in front of a picture of Norman Lear

HH&S’ Director Kate Folb in between RespectAbility’s President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi and Communications Director Lauren Appelbaum

Los Angeles, Calif., April 18 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, announces a new partnership with Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S), a project of the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center. The partnership will help educate, inform and support the success of the movie/TV industry in its work to ensure that people with disabilities are included on both sides of the camera in the stories that Hollywood tells. HH&S provides entertainment industry professionals with accurate and timely information for storylines on health, safety and national security. Like RespectAbility, HH&S recognizes the profound impact that entertainment media have on individual knowledge and behavior – ultimately impacting society and lives at large.

“We’re delighted to be working with RespectAbility to help inform and inspire the frequency and accuracy of portrayals of people with disabilities in TV and film,” said Kate Folb, the director of HH&S.

HH&S offers several resources, including quick facts, briefings and consultations with experts, case examples, panel discussions about timely health issues, a quarterly newsletter with health updates called Real to Reel and an expanding list of tip sheets written specifically for writers and producers. The broad range of topics includes disability-specific topics autism and mental health. Some of the TV shows they have assisted include The Fosters, The Good Doctor, Grey’s Anatomy, Orange Is the New Black, Speechless, Switched at Birth and many more.

The creation of this partnership would not have been possible without the financial support of The California Endowment. “Visibility and representation matters,” said Jose L. Plaza, who manages the grant for The California Endowment. “We know that accurate and positive portrayals of diverse people with disabilities will not only empower and educate viewers and program creators but will ultimately lead to a more inclusive, responsive and healthier society.”

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First of Its Kind Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit Offers Entertainment Professionals Facts & Sources 

CONTACT: Lauren Appelbaum,, 202-591-0703

Download the PDF or accessible Word document or view online. Also, view our PPT to learn more.

Reality TV Pioneer Jonathan Murray, former Presidential appointee and inclusion expert Steven James Tingus, film executive Delbert Whetter, RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Hollywood, Health & Society Director Kate Folb, Top Model/Actor Nyle DiMarco and California Endowment’s Jose Plaza led the March 20 breakfast discussion about the path to inclusion of people with disabilities

A group of people seated in chairs and wheelchairs and standing smiling and posing for the camera

Back Row: Delbert Whetter, Richard Ray, Nyle DiMarco, Jonathan Murray, Cindy Chu, Hasan Foster, Kate Folb, Jose Plaza; Front Row: Steven James Tingus, Lauren Appelbaum, Tatiana Lee, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Debbie Fink

Los Angeles, Calif., March 20 – As entertainment professionals across all platforms work to become more inclusive of minorities, RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization that fights stigma and advances opportunities for people with disabilities, announces the launch of “The Hollywood Disability Toolkit: The RespectAbility Guide to Inclusion in the Entertainment Industry.” The toolkit, which is available online for free, offers Hollywood professionals the facts and sources they need to get disability inclusion right.

The Hollywood Disability Toolkit: The RespectAbility Guide to Inclusion in the Entertainment IndustryA first of its kind primer for entertainment professionals, it covers a wide array of key issues all in one easy to read place. A Disability FAQ covers topics from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the definition of a disability to concrete steps to ensure inclusivity and sample inclusion language. The FAQ also covers resources for hiring employees with disabilities and tax and other incentives that employers have to hire people with disabilities.

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Actor/Model and Deaf Activist Nyle DiMarco Joins in Launch of Historic “Hollywood Toolkit” to Help Industry Achieve Goals of Equitable Hiring & Authentic Representation of Disabilities



John Stodder, Tower26, (213) 393-42190


Actor/Model and Deaf Activist Nyle DiMarco Joins in Launch of Historic “Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit” to Help Industry Achieve Goals of Equitable Hiring & Authentic Representation of Disabilities
Nyle DiMarco sitting in a car

Nyle DiMarco

Reality TV Pioneer Jonathan Murray, RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Hollywood, Health & Society Director Kate Folb and California Endowment’s Jose Plaza to lead March 20 breakfast discussion about the path to inclusion of people with disabilities.

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Rice 360 Gets $15 Million Investment from MacArthur Foundation; Will Be Inclusive of People with Disabilities

An adult finger holding the hand of a baby that is lying down on a blanket.

Washington, D.C., March 19, 2018 – The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation joined a small cadre of exceptional champions for inclusion and equality by awarding $145 million in grants to groundbreaking projects that will include people with disabilities equally in their work. MacArthur’s initiative, 100&Change, asked grant applicants – no matter their sector or project goals – to review a series of questions and a check list to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities in multiple aspects of the grant recipients’ proposed projects. Never before has a grant program anywhere near this size asked grantees to address how they plan to ensure access to benefits for persons with disabilities.

The Rice 360° Institute for Global Health (Rice University) received $15 million to prevent newborn babies in Africa from dying. Indeed, every year, 1.1 million newborns die in Africa alone, mostly from preventable causes — pre-term birth, complications of labor and delivery, and infections. The grant from MacArthur will enable Rice and their partners to providing quality, comprehensive hospital care during birth, labor, and the first weeks of life with a goal of reducing newborn deaths in certain areas by 75 percent.

RespectAbility had the opportunity to ask the winners of the grants about how they ensured their project will include people with disabilities as equals. Professor Maria Oden, a Professor in the Practice of Engineering in the Department of Bioengineering at Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering and Director of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen at Rice University and co-director of Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health, gave us her insights: [click to continue…]

As Oksana Masters, a woman with disability adopted from overseas, wins U.S. Paralympic Gold, MacArthur Foundation paves way for other youth with disabilities in orphanages to have better future

Oksana Masters
Oksana Masters reacts to winning the women’s sitting cross-country 1.1-kilometer sprint at the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on March 14, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Washington, D.C., March 15 – Oksana Masters won a long-awaited Paralympic gold medal yesterday in a thrilling day of action that saw Team USA win three medals in the cross-country sprint. Masters, who already owned five Paralympic medals (two silver and three bronze) in rowing and Nordic skiing, grabbed the title of Paralympic champion for the first time in her career.

But Masters’ life did not start out easily. Like more than 3 million other children with disabilities around the world, she had been abandoned to an orphanage. Indeed, more than 80 percent of the more than 8 million children living in orphanages around the world have a living parent who would prefer to care for their child if they had the resources to do so. Children with disabilities are often placed in orphanages because of stigmas, poverty and their families’ inability to access basic services such as education or specialized assistance for children with disabilities. Research demonstrates that residential care has a negative impact on children’s cognitive, physical, emotional, and intellectual development. In addition, well-meaning people donate millions of dollars to orphanages, while funds spent on orphanages could support integration of ten times as many children into families and achieve better results.

Thankfully for Masters, she found a “forever family” in the United States who adopted and believed in her. Now, thanks to a major investment by the MacArthur Foundation, many other children with disabilities and others at orphanages around the world will also have a chance to have a permanent family and home. That is because the MacArthur Foundation joining a wave of enlightened philanthropists by asking finalists for its major 100-million-dollar challenge to include people with disabilities in their work. Their initiative, “100&Change,” is a competition for a $100 million grant to fund a single proposal that promises real and measurable progress in solving a critical problem of our time. Never before has a grant anywhere near this size asked grantees to address how they plan to assure access to benefits for persons with disabilities. [click to continue…]

For First Time, Frances McDormand Calls for Full Inclusion at the Academy Awards

  • Best Actress in a Leading Role makes call for more inclusion.
  • Authentic representation of disability wins Best Live Action Short.
  • Best Picture Winner goes to film with actor playing a disability she doesn’t have.
  • Diversity and inclusion segment omits people with disabilities.
Frances McDormand holding an Oscar giving a speech on stage

Frances McDormand

Los Angeles, Calif., March 5 – In a historic call for more information, Academy Award winner Frances McDormand called for an inclusion rider in contracts – a provision that ensures diversity and inclusion in not only the cast of a Hollywood project, but also the crew. The result can lead to a Hollywood A-lister ensuring gender, racial, LGBTQ and disability equality via his or her contracts.

“For those of you asking about the #InclusionRider, it’s designed to ensure equitable hiring in supportive roles for women, POC [people of color], the LGBT community, & people w/disabilities,” the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative tweeted. Stacy Smith, its Founder and Director, previously talked about this concept during a 2016 TED Talk.

An inclusion rider “has always been available to all – everybody who does a negotiation on a film – which means you can ask for or demand at least 50 percent diversity in not only the casting but the crew.” McDormand, who won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, told The Hollywood Reporter backstage after the Oscars. “The fact that I just learned that after 35 years in the film business – we aren’t going back.”

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Estudio Revela los datos de Education y Empleo para personas con discapacidad en California

Long Beach, California, Feb. 22 – Los californianos con discapacidades son dramáticamente menos propensos a encontrar empleo en comparación con la población en general. Recientemente se publicó el Compendio de Estadísticas sobre Discapacidades realizado por La Universidad New Hampshire. El compendio revela una brecha de 40 puntos porcentuales en las perspectivas que existen entre las personas con y sin discapacidades. A pesar de la exitosa economía de Golden State, la cual incluye la tasa de empleo más baja en más de 40 años. Tan solo 707,791 o el 34.8% de los californianos con discapacidades tienen un empleo. Por otro lado, el 74.4% de personas sin discapacidades tienen un empleo.

Según RespectAbility, una organización nacional que lucha contra los estigmas y genera oportunidades de avances para las personas con discapacidad, California ocupa el puesto 34 en puestos de trabajo para personas con discapacidades. Incluso estados con economías más pequeñas como Minnesota y las Dakotas están en puestos más altos que California.  Las estadísticas son decepcionantes ya que la tasa de desempleo de California en diciembre fue de 4.3%, la más baja vista en la historia desde 1976.

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Muhammad Ali—Dyslexic Role Model Fought in the Ring and for Racial and Social Justice

Photo of Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali was known to many as a champion boxer and a man who fought for racial and social justice his entire life. He acquired Parkinson’s at age 42 and became a role model for people with physical disabilities. What many may not know, however, is that Ali also had dyslexia.

“As a high school student, many of my teachers labeled me dumb…I knew who the real dummies were. I barely graduated…There was no way I was going to college—I never even thought about it. I could barely read my textbooks,” Ali has told others.

When Ali was growing up, teachers and researchers did not know much about dyslexia or how to help children who struggle with the disability. Ali was not aware of the fact that he had dyslexia, either, which led to a lack of confidence in his ability as a student.

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Study Reveals Education and Employment Gaps for Those with Disabilities in California

Long Beach, California, Feb. 22 – Californians with disabilities are dramatically less likely to find employment than the general population or even their counterparts in most other states. The newly released Disabilities Statistics Compendium, published by the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, reveals a 40 percentage-point gap in job prospects between those with disabilities and those without. Despite the Golden State’s booming economy, including the lowest unemployment rate in more than 40 years, only 701,791 – or 34.8 percent – of Californians with disabilities have jobs. The figure for people without disabilities is 74.4 percent.

According to RespectAbility, a national organization that fights stigma and advances opportunity for people with disabilities, California ranks 34th on jobs for people with disabilities. California is far lower than states with smaller economies including Minnesota and the Dakotas. Such statistics are disappointing since California’s unemployment rate in December was 4.3 percent, lower than at any time since 1976.

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New York State Falls to 40th in the U.S. in Jobs for People with Disabilities

NYC’s High School Graduation Rate Also Lags Significantly Behind National Average

New York, NY, Feb. 22 – Even as the national economy improves, New Yorkers with disabilities are left behind. The newly released Disabilities Statistics Compendium, published by the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire reveals that out of more than 1,000,000 working-age New Yorkers with disabilities, only 367,478 have jobs. Adding to that is a new analysis published by RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities for people with disabilities, which shows that New York now ranks 40th in the nation for employment of people with disabilities. This is a drop of seven states. Even though more than 5,000 more New Yorkers with disabilities entered the workforce last year, the Empire State is outperformed by almost 80 percent of the country.

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