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Press Releases

Short Film NayNay Too Bomb Brings Awareness to Disability Inclusion and Representation

Los Angeles, April 1 – The 2021 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge has provided some fantastic short films again this year, and as always, gives great examples of best practices when it comes to disability representation in entertainment. For those unaware, the Easterseals Film Challenge is a filmmaking competition where competitors are given a topic along with a series of other elements to include, and must write, direct and edit a short film all in a single weekend, while involving people with disabilities in front of and behind the camera.

This year, 2019 RespectAbility Lab Alumna Natalie Trevonne created a short mockumentary called NayNay Too Bomb. Trevonne wrote and stars as the title character in this hilarious short film. [continue reading…]

HBO Max Joins the Ranks of Streamers Providing Audio Description

Los Angeles, April 1 – Last week, HBO Max became the latest streaming giant to add audio description to their content. They join the ranks of other huge streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+ and Disney+ to provide accessible content to their audiences.

For those who are unaware, audio description is a secondary audio track, which consumers can turn on and off, that narrates the scene in between lines of dialogue to help low-vision/blind viewers better understand the scene. Audio description helps blind consumers get the full experience of a piece of entertainment, similar to how captioning helps deaf consumers. With the addition of this service, HBO Max now joins other streaming services like Netflix, which has been providing audio description on all of their original content for several years. [continue reading…]

Diving In: A shining example of how people with disabilities can and should be depicted in media

Los Angeles, April 1 – Diving In is a fun and exciting short film premiering at the Aspen Film Festival this year. A familiar story about the thrills of high school crushes, the quick seven-minute film follows Alex’s epic adventure to delete the texts his friends sent to his crush before she can read them. It’s tough to say more about the film without spoiling it, as it is only seven minutes long, but it is most definitely a must see. The film is full of clever comedic characters, hilarious moments, and brilliant cinematography. It’s truly a feat just how much this crew was able to accomplish in only seven minutes.

Diving In is a shining example of how people with disabilities can and should be depicted in media. [continue reading…]

Women’s History Month Reflection: by Nicole LeBlanc

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece are those of the author.

Nicole LeBlanc with other panelists at RespectAbility's 2019 Summit, smiling together.

Nicole LeBlanc (on the right) with other panelists at RespectAbility’s 2019 Summit

As we celebrate Women’s History and Developmental Disability Awareness month, we must recognize the struggles women continue to face in our society. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the social and economic injustices that women, and especially women with disabilities, face. Millions of women, especially mothers, have dropped out of the workforce due to caretaking responsibilities and layoffs. Since the start of the pandemic 2.5 million women left the labor market, compared to 1.8 million men. As a society we must do better to ensure our workforce can accommodate the unique needs of women and women with disabilities in general. [continue reading…]

Disability Group Pushes Government to Better Understand COVID’s Impact on Students with Disabilities

Submitted testimony will help inform Department of Education efforts to collect better disability data.

Three students with disabilities working at a table together. Text: COVID-19 & Students with DisabilitiesWashington, D.C., March 22 – As the nation continues to grapple with the lessons learned from one year of lockdown, virtual education and the other results of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education solicited new ideas to support the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2021 School Survey. In response to this opportunity, the RespectAbility team rapidly solicited insights from board members, partner organizations and self-advocates to push for the collection of better disability data as part of the NAEP.

“Distance learning has been a disaster for teachers, parents and students alike. Over time, some of the impacts are recoverable,” said Jaime H. Pacheco-Orozco, who serves as the Assistant Executive Director of the City of Los Angeles Department on Disability and on RespectAbility’s Board of Directors. “It won’t be easy, but there is a path forward. That path must include capturing clear data that will help future generations of students with disabilities.” [continue reading…]

Talent from the Walt Disney Company Bring the Magic of Storytelling to Next Generation of Storytellers

Los Angeles, CA, March 18 – After launching a new campaign to inspire the love of reading featuring a diverse group of talent from across the Disney family, Disney is shining the spotlight on two actresses with disabilities who are reading Disney books.

This is important, as almost seven million children in America have a disability; to see readers with disabilities represented in this campaign gives children with disabilities the confidence they can be part of the next generation of storytellers. [continue reading…]

Best Summer Ever: A Must-See at SXSW 2021

Rickey Alexander Wilson and Shannon DeVido singing in a scene from Best Summer Ever. Logo for the film.Los Angeles, CA, March 18 – Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 SXSW Festival was canceled. However, this year many of the best films from 2020 are returning to SXSW. Best Summer Ever is one such film. This musical, filled with talented individuals with disabilities, is a must-see.

Best Summer Ever is a musical directed by Michael Parks Randa and Lauren Smitelli and co-written by Randa, Smitelli, Will Halby, Andrew Pilkington and Terra Mackintosh, produced by the nonprofit Zeno Mountain Farm. Given the production’s deep connections to the disability community, it comes as no surprise that Best Summer Ever is one of the most disability-inclusive films I have ever seen. [continue reading…]

The American Rescue Plan: What It Means for People with Disabilities

How will this $1.9 trillion law help the 61 million Americans living with a disability?

Photos of Congressional dome and the White House. Text: American Rescue Plan & People with DisabilitiesWashington, D.C., March 12 – This week, Congress passed, and President Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This massive bill includes a range of policies and programs intended to get more Americans vaccinated, help working families, and lay the groundwork for a post-pandemic economic recovery. Critically, it also contains key proposals that will directly benefit millions of people with disabilities, including helping students with disabilities get back to the classroom and directly sending stimulus checks to many people left out of previous relief efforts. [continue reading…]

We Got You: A Podcast with a Purpose

Logo for "We Got You" podcast with rainbow lines, a peace sign, a smiling face and a confused faceLos Angeles, March 11 – In today’s cultural landscape, we are seeing an unprecedented explosion of media that presents a fusion of entertainment and education. Resources like these allow people to look for help in an inviting, compassionate situation before venturing out into other social spaces. We Got You is a podcast that both entertains and educates teens on mental health issues and other disabilities that often are stigmatized or rarely spoken of in an earnest manner. It is through anecdotes that the show explores the truths of its collaborators’ unique predicaments.

Hosted by Samantha Logan of 13 Reasons Why and All American, each episode focuses on a single issue as presented through the narration of teenagers of various backgrounds. This format allows for frank and accessible discussions of real, lived experiences without the barriers of clinical jargon and other hurdles for non-specialists. [continue reading…]

Women with Disabilities: Challenges, Opportunities, and Role Models in 2021

Headshots of 42 diverse women with disabilitiesWashington, D.C., March 8 – As we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, it is critical to recognize the unique challenges and critical contributions made by women with disabilities to American society.

Data from the Annual Disability Statistics, published by the researchers at the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, shows that there are 21,201,155 women living with disabilities in America today. This includes 10,174,591 working-age (18-64) women with disabilities, many of whom have been directly impacted by the economic disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic. [continue reading…]

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