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Press Releases

Disclosing your Disability in the Workplace with RespectAbility’s Leah Romond and Matan Koch

Headshots of Leah Romond and Matan Koch smilingLos Angeles, July 15 – RespectAbility’s 2021 Summer Lab Fellows recently were joined by RespectAbility’s own Matan Koch, Vice President for Workforce, Leadership, and Faith Programs, as well as Leah Romond, Senior Production Advisor at RespectAbility, for a conversation around when and how to disclose your disability in the workplace. Despite the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many still face workplace discrimination as early as the interview process. Due to this, Koch and Romond took the time to share insight with the Lab participants, covering topics such as how to ask for accommodations and when it’s the right time to talk about your disability with your employer. [continue reading…]

2022 Disability Voter Questionnaire for Senate and Gubernatorial Races

Dear candidate:

RespectAbility, a national nonpartisan nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community, is preparing nonpartisan state voter guides of Democratic and Republican Senate and Gubernatorial candidates. These guides will cover a variety of issues that impact the 1-in-5 Americans who live with a physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health or other disability. This is being done in conjunction with our online publication, www.TheRespectAbilityReport.org, also known as www.VoteAbility.com, which is the definitive place for voters who care about the intersection of disability and electoral politics. [continue reading…]

2021 Disability Voter Questionnaire for California Governor Recall Election

Dear candidate:

RespectAbility, a national nonpartisan nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community, is preparing a nonpartisan voter guide for the 2021 California gubernatorial recall election. The guide will cover a variety of issues that impact the 1-in-5 Americans who live with a physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health or other disability. This is being done in conjunction with our online publication, www.TheRespectAbilityReport.org, also known as www.VoteAbility.com, which is the definitive place for voters who care about the intersection of disability and electoral politics. [continue reading…]

Selling Your Story with Tatiana Lee and Eileen Grubba

Los Angeles, July 13 – On the third week of RespectAbility’s Summer Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities, actors and disability advocates Tatiana Lee and Eileen Grubba teamed up to lead a conversation on how to pitch yourself to industry professionals.

Tatiana Lee smiling outside in a parking lot.

Tatiana Lee

Entering the entertainment industry is an incredible feat as a person without a disability. And those with disabilities encounter the extra challenge of fighting to be taken seriously after being historically excluded. However, Lee was inspired by the lack of representation and decided to embody the Black disabled women she did not see on TV when she was younger. Lee is a model, actress, writer and producer, as well as an Instagram influencer. She has starred in projects such as Jade, Footloose, and Together and Better. [continue reading…]

Bipartisan Bill Helps Americans with Disabilities Seek Work without Losing Benefits

The western front of the United States CapitolWashington D.C, July 9 – On June 17, 2021, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Work Without Worry Act. This piece of legislation would allow Americans with disabilities to take on employment opportunities without the fear of losing higher Social Security benefits.

Currently, if an adult has a disability that began before the age of 22, they may be eligible for Social Security’s Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefit. This benefit considers these adults to be dependents on their parent(s) and as such their benefits, like any child under the age of 18, rely on their parent’s Social Security contributions and earnings. [continue reading…]

Alabama Passes $5,000 Deductible for ABLE Account Holders

State flag of AlabamaWashington, D.C., July 9 – Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed Act 2021-514 allowing ABLE Savings account holders to deduct up to $5,000 per year per taxpayer on State Income Taxes. The plan, announced by Alabama State Treasurer John McMillian, aims to make saving achievable for people with disabilities by allowing ABLE account holders to save without losing the public benefits which many individuals with disabilities depend on.

What are ABLE Accounts?

In 2014, the 113th Congress passed H.R. 647, the Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act), which established tax-advantaged savings accounts for people with disabilities and their families. The ABLE Act was designed to support people with disabilities who are required to meet means/resource tests to continue receiving potential life-saving benefits. Members of the disability community who are on benefits are restricted to having less than $2,000 in liquid resources. Millions of people with disabilities rely on public programs for income, health care, housing assistance and food security. ABLE Accounts allows people with disabilities to accumulate savings that do not affect their eligibility for these benefits. [continue reading…]

NJ Governor Phil Murphy Signs Bill Approving 13th Year for Students with Disabilities

New Jersey state flagNewark, N.J., July 9 – Last month, Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ) signed Senate Bill 3434 into law after five months of delays. This piece of legislation extends the length of educational and transitional services for eligible students with disabilities, who are slated to age out of the academic system at the age of 21. In New Jersey, the length of service extension is approximately one year.

How many students will benefit from this new law? 

According to the Disability Compendium Annual Statistics, there are 220,362 students with disabilities served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in New Jersey public schools.  Percentage wise, this represents 12.6 percent of all students in New Jersey’s K-12 schools. This might seem like a small percentage; however, every student served deserves an equal right to access resources that they need. [continue reading…]

Writers from NCIS: New Orleans, 4400, Mech Cadet, and WarnerMedia Share Their Journeys to the Writers’ Room During RespectAbility’s 2021 Summer Lab

Six people on a Zoom call together. Text: Focus on WritingLos Angeles, July 8 – RespectAbility’s 2021 Summer Lab Fellows recently chatted all things TV writing with a panel of esteemed writers and writers’ assistants including Katherine Beattie, NCIS: New Orleans; Diana Romero, 4400 (2020 Lab alumna); Ashley Eakin, Mech Cadet (2020 Lab alumna); and Maddy Ullman, WarnerMedia. The panelists shared their individual journeys to the writers’ room, and answered questions from current Lab Fellows about topics ranging from the nitty gritty details of what exactly a writers’ assistant does, to more nuanced questions like when and how to ask for accommodations in the room. By the end of the hour, the main takeaway from the conversation was clear: There is no “right” way to get into the room, and once you’re there, no writers’ room experience will be the same for everyone. The panelists emphasized staying true to your own vision and goals, asking for help whenever you need it, and most importantly, keep writing! [continue reading…]

Actor and Comedian Steve Way Emphasizes the Importance of Intersectional Inclusivity to Create Change

“For years the industry has talked about diversity and inclusion and representation, and every single time we have been left out of the conversation…and that time is over.” – Steve Way

Steve Way headshot. Way is a white man who uses a wheelchair

Steve Way

Los Angeles, July 8 – Steve Way is a substitute teacher by day and a stand-up comedian by night in the New York and New Jersey areas. He also stars in the webseries, Uplifting Dystrophy and is a cast member of the renewed Hulu series Ramy, a show that was co-created by Way’s real-life collaborator and friend, Ramy Youssef. Recently, Way spoke to RespectAbility’s 2021 Lab participants, and shared some insightful observations and advice that he has acquired during his journey in the entertainment industry.

Youssef and Way began their early entry to the entertainment industry together in a TV and broadcasting high school course, where the two were exposed to the resources needed to produce at an advanced level. As their projects elevated in quality and in audience, Youssef’s inclusion of Way in the script and eventual casting in Ramy was only natural. Against the instinct of Youssef’s co-creators, Way’s audition to play the role of himself in the series was undeniably euphoric. [continue reading…]

From Doctor to TV Writer, David Renaud Finds Success in Authentic Storytelling

David Renaud smiling wearing a suit. David is a white man who uses a wheelchair.

David Renaud

Los Angeles, July 8 – Family doctor turned TV writer, David Renaud has fought his way to the top of the Hollywood industry. Now as supervising producer of ABC’s The Good Doctor, Renaud looked back on his journey with the RespectAbility 2021 Summer Lab participants.

For Renaud, story is king and he credits his unique story for the position he holds today. Renaud always knew he wanted to be a filmmaker, but his journey was unconventional as he started out in medical school determined to find the cure for his paralysis. After a car crash left him paralyzed from the waist down, Renaud began using a wheelchair, and eventually went on to earn his MD from the University of British Columbia. Renaud was always a storyteller and eventually found his way to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where he completed his MFA in screenwriting. Since then, Renaud has found huge success as a writer on shows such as Blood and Oil, Pure Genius, and most recently The Good Doctor. [continue reading…]

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