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Press Releases

The Need For Safe Refuges

Leah Craig headshot. Pride flag as backgroundA few days before Pride Month begins this year, the third time without my step-dad, I find myself reaching for the bag of his old shirts without thinking twice, slipping one over my head and inhaling the remnants of his scent, of that pine-scented deodorant he always wore, letting the faded cotton wrap me up like one of his bear hugs.

My step-dad was my dad’s longest partner, from when I was six years old until my early twenties, and he remained in my life until the end of his. He died from the complications of lung cancer in January 2019. Denn, as I called him, short for another one of his nicknames (Denny), was an OG 80s queer punk, with multiple piercings he had done himself, tattoos of his own artwork—he was an indie comic book artist and illustrator. He also was the complete opposite of my bio dad. Together, the two of them, coupled with my god-father, a gay Tejano man, taught me everything I needed to know about accepting and coming to terms with my own queer identity as a lesbian years later. [continue reading…]

New Report Highlights Lack of Inclusion and Equity in TV Writing

Los Angeles, CA, May 27 – For the fourth year in a row, Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity has released a report about the barriers to entry and advancement faced by underrepresented writers. And as with last year’s report, the disability community lags behind every other marginalized community. The new report, titled Behind The Scenes: The State of Inclusion and Equity in TV Writing, is based on a survey of 876 respondents and results from two focus groups. Thirteen percent of the survey respondents identified as disabled.

“Disabled writers and actors are part of the largest, and one of the most intersectional, groups on the planet — yet it wasn’t until a few years ago that we began to be included in diversity and inclusion initiatives, in industry reports, and in media equity analyses,” said David Radcliff, one of two disabled steering committee members within TTIE (alongside Katherine Beattie). “Hollywood has a lot of catching up to do, where disability is concerned, and there’s no better time than now, as Zoom rooms become more normalized and the industry itself is being retooled, to finally welcome us.”

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New Documentary Short Film, My Disability Roadmap Follows One Filmmaker’s Search for Wisdom on his Path to Adulthood

Los Angeles, May 20 – In the short documentary, My Disability Roadmap, from father-son filmmaking team, 22-year-old disabled filmmaker Samuel Habib and his father Dan Habib, we witness a glimpse of Samuel’s journey to adulthood told through his point of view. Samuel is a college student with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, living in Concord, New Hampshire. Navigating the ableist biases of our society, especially in terms of how people treat him, Samuel decides to meet with some of the most influential disability advocates in America (including Ali Stroker, Bob Williams, Judy Heumann, and more) for advice. What Samuel learns on his journey is that he is not alone; all individuals struggle in our society, regardless of disability. As Samuel says, “Disability is part of the natural diversity of the world…We should not be segregated.” As someone with a physical disability myself, I could not agree more.

Samuel Habib and a young woman moving through a crowd of people cheering them on in a scene from My Disability Roadmap

Samuel Habib

Samuel also says, “No one tells you how to be an adult, let alone an adult with a disability,” and I am sure several people can relate, including myself. All of Samuel’s struggles are extremely relatable, but when it comes to disability there is no roadmap for how to maximize opportunities in society, whether it be socially or economically. “Knowledge” is a key theme in the documentary as we follow Samuel learning from his mentors or Samuel educating those around him about his disability. [continue reading…]

How I Dance with Depression and Dissociation

Trigger warning: depression, mention of self-harm and suicide

Author’s Note: My depression and dissociation comes and goes. In any given year it can happen once, multiple times, or not at all. I am not a medical professional and therefore, my advice is only a suggestion. I understand not all advice or shared practices work for everyone, but they may help someone. If it helped me, as someone who has depression and dissociation, then it may help someone else. I write this to reach out to anyone who may find this supportive of their experience. The tone is strong and I understand everyone experiences their depression and dissociation differently. As such, everyone has their own way of coping and navigating through these experiences. [continue reading…]

No One Does This Alone

Shelly Christensen smiling headshot

Shelly Christensen

No one does this alone. No one.

More than twenty years ago, I was directing a program aimed at faith communities to raise awareness and guide them to include people with disabilities in communal life. I did a lot of public speaking in this role, and occasionally an audience member would approach me after my talks, waiting a bit nervously until everyone else had spoken with me. Often, the question that they wanted to ask was, “does the inclusion work you do include people living with a mental health condition?”

I felt uncomfortable answering this question. I saw hope in peoples’ eyes. I didn’t want to disappoint them, but the truth was, I stayed as far away from mental health in my talks as possible. Somehow mental health was completely different than disability inclusion. [continue reading…]

“Mickey Mouse Funhouse” Furthers Inclusion with New Deaf Character

Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck and Fig in a scene from Mickey Mouse Funhouse

Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck and Fig in a scene from “Mickey Mouse Funhouse”

Los Angeles, CA, May 13 – Fans of Mickey Mouse who use ASL to communicate will be seeing themselves represented by a new character, Fig, a gnome friend who is deaf.

Fig made his debut in Disney Junior’s “Mickey Mouse Funhouse” Friday. A drummer and music enthusiast, Fig and his sister Olive help Minnie and Daisy understand how he communicates. “The Music of the Seasons” will re-air throughout the month of May and beyond and Fig will appear in additional upcoming episodes alongside Mickey and his friends.

RespectAbility Vice Chair Delbert Whetter and his brother Jevon Whetter, who are both deaf, consulted on the development of this character.

“Jevon and I feel so privileged and honored to connect young deaf and hard of hearing children with such iconic characters as Mickey and Minnie using ASL, a language that is visually accessible to them,” said Delbert Whetter, who has more than 20 years of experience in producing animated feature films. [continue reading…]

RespectAbility Chairman Ollie Cantos Celebrates AAPI Heritage Month


Hi everybody! My name is Ollie Cantos and I’m Chairman of the board here at RespectAbility. And I am excited to have this opportunity to join with others in celebrating Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This is a really wonderful time of year for us to celebrate the accomplishments, in this particular context, of members of the AAPI community who also happen to have disabilities. [continue reading…]

Ariel Simms to Implement Renewed Vision and Foster New Growth and Opportunities as RespectAbility’s Next President and CEO

Ariel Simms smiling headshot wearing glasses and a blazer

Ariel Simms (they/them or she/her)

Washington, D.C., May 10 – As the disability community continues to feel the transformative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility announces that Ariel Simms (they/them or she/her) has been named President and Chief Executive Officer. In this role, Ariel will foster new growth and opportunities, as part of a renewed vision to deepen RespectAbility’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

“I am incredibly excited to join RespectAbility as its next leader, building on the powerful work of the organization’s co-founders, board, staff, Fellows, and Apprentices. As a diverse, disability-led nonprofit, RespectAbility has advocated to increase opportunity and decrease marginalization of individuals with disabilities and the stigma that persists in every facet of our society. I am eager to renew partnerships and build bridges, ensuring that RespectAbility centers those within and across the disability community who face the most barriers. Coming into RespectAbility at this critical time, we are undergoing transformational change inside and out to become a more just, equitable, and inclusive organization, and one that is deeply trusted by the communities we serve,” Ariel said.

A social justice advocate, leader, and educator, Ariel has worked to promote equity, justice, and meaningful inclusion of marginalized communities throughout their career. Ariel has been a life-long member of the disability community, growing into their first disabilities in childhood, while also supporting disabled family members. As a multiply disabled person, Ariel understands firsthand the challenges faced by those whose disabilities are not always readily apparent. [continue reading…]

New Disability Screen Office Opens in Canada to Support and Amplify Creative Voices of Disabled Canadians

A person walking down a sidewalk with a white cane. Logo for AMI. Text: Disability Screen OfficeToronto, May 6 – Accessible Media Inc. (AMI), in partnership with the Canadian Media Fund (CMF) and Telefilm Canada, is launching a Disability Screen Office (DSO) in Canada to eliminate accessibility barriers and support and amplify disabled creatives.

“It became apparent that there is currently no single program, incentive, or regulation that can cause the screen industry to be fully inclusive for people with disabilities,” said Andrew Morris, Manager, Independent Production, AMI-tv. “The only way to create meaningful real opportunities for people with disabilities in the media industry is to address the systemic barriers relating to education, industry regulations, insufficient and/or inaccurate representation, public beliefs and attitudes, and full accessibility throughout the media industry.” [continue reading…]

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