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Press Releases

Emmy Award-Winning Show Highlights ABLE Accounts and Financial Security for People with Disabilities

Born This Way Nominated for Six 2017 Emmy Awards including Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program

Cast of Born This Way smiling and posing for the camera

Born This Way Cast

Rockville, Md., July 18 – For the cast of Emmy award-winning Born This Way and others with disabilities, acquiring a sense of financial stability is important in being able to live an independent life.

Born This Way, a reality TV show just nominated for six Emmy awards, including again for the 2017 Emmy Award for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program, which the show won in 2016, is centered on seven young adults with Down syndrome living their day-to-day lives, all while pursuing their passions, following their dreams and defying stigmas. In the final episode of season three, Megan and her mother Kris learn about opening an A Better Life Experience (ABLE) account. ABLE accounts are savings accounts designed specifically for people with disabilities and their families to aid them in financial independence.

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“Empire” Casting Director Leah Daniels-Butler Confirmed to Speak at RespectAbility Summit

head shot of Leah Daniels-Butler wearing a blue collared blouse

Leah Daniels-Butler

Rockville, Md., July 13 – Leah Daniels-Butler, “Empire” casting director, will be speaking at RespectAbility’s summit From Hollywood to Capitol Hill: The Future of Americans with Disabilities.

Daniels-Butler is a casting director and producer most notable for launching the careers of gifted actors like Best Actress Nominee Gaborey Sidebe, star of the Academy Award winning film “Precious,” securing talent for both blockbuster and award-winning films like “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “Lee Daniels, The Butler” and as Casting Director for television’s #1 show, “Empire.”

Her ongoing commitment to championing the inclusion and representation of diverse acting casts of color, gender and ability has guided her career path to being appointed a National Board Director for the Casting Society of America, spearheading the CSA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

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Born This Way Highlights Importance of Inclusive Education

Watch #BornThisWay on A&E, Tuesday at 10:00 p.m. ET. 

View Education Resources on Disability Issues

Rockville, Md., June 27 — In the U.S., schools were not required to provide special education until 1975. Today, the fight for inclusive education remains a constant battle for parents and students. Born This Way, a reality television show that stars seven diverse young adults with Down syndrome, shines the spotlight on the importance of inclusive education and the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process.

Ensuring children with disabilities receive the education and training they need to succeed is vitally important. Nationally, only 65 percent of students with disabilities graduate high school each year compared to 86 percent of student without disabilities. That means there is 21-point gap in outcomes. Furthermore, only seven percent of students with disabilities graduate college. As such, educators have a critical role to play in empowering more students with disabilities to succeed.

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Talking Positively about Sex and Disability

Watch #BornThisWay on A&E, Tuesday at 10:00 p.m. ET. 

View Sexual Education Resources for People with Disabilities.

Rockville, Md., June 19 – Sexual education for young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities is extremely important. Born This Way, a reality television show that stars seven diverse young adults with Down syndrome, is doing its part to highlight this.

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, an average of 59,000 adults with disabilities are raped or sexually assaulted each year. Approximately half of all adults with cognitive disabilities will experience 10 or more sexually abusive incidents in their lifetime.

The upcoming episode of Born This Way on June 20, 2017 highlights the importance of sexual education as it relates to dating and marriage. The cast speaks with Terri Couwenhoven MS, CSE, a well known sex educator and author. Couwenhoven specializes in the design and implementation of sexuality programs and resources for people with cognitive disabilities, their parents and the professionals who support them.

In coordination with Couwenhoven, RespectAbility has released a lengthy guide featuring resources for sexual education for children, teenagers and adults with disabilities, with a focus on those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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Post Capitol Hill Shooting: Finding Bipartisanship & Success

Rockville, Md., June 15 – Yesterday’s shooting outside of Washington, D.C., reminds us about the dangers inherent in bitter partisanship and political uncertainty. As pollster Frank Luntz said, “If there ever was a chance for Republicans and Democrats to stand up and say, ‘Stop,’ this is it.” This master communicator reminds us that “we all believe in the Constitution, we all believe in the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Among those principles is the idea that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life. People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else. Despite the fact that job openings just hit a record high, only one in three people with disabilities have jobs. For a nation with more than 6.4 million openings, we cannot afford to ignore the talents of 22 million working age people with disabilities.

Lost in the headlines was a White House announcement about apprenticeships. This is great news for many, but what about students with disabilities? What chance do they have to access work-based learning or gain the skills that employers need?

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Genesis Prize Foundation, Jewish Funders Network, ORLO and Beverly Foundation to Support RespectAbility

Funding will Expand Inclusion of Jews with Disabilities, Fight Stigmas and Advance Opportunities

headshot of Itzhak Perlman holding his violin in front of him

Itzhak Perlman

Rockville, Md., June 14 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, is very grateful to announce that it has been chosen for a Breaking Barriers Award from The Genesis Prize Foundation and Jewish Funders Network to promote inclusion of people with disabilities in Jewish life.

The award is part of a matching grant program created in honor of 2016 Genesis Prize Laureate Itzhak Perlman, a world-renowned violinist and activist for people with disabilities. Perlman regifted the funds to promote Jewish inclusion for those with disabilities, as well as to support young people pursuing careers in classical music.

As part of receiving the Breaking Barriers Award, RespectAbility committed to match all funds received. Two new donors to RespectAbility are matching this gift: Ahuva and Aaron Orlofsky; and Beverly Foundation.

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Born This Way Fan Guide: Free Resources You Can Use

Toolkit Includes Free Resources for Job Seekers with Disabilities and Employers Embracing Employees with Disabilities


Washington, D.C., June 4 – In coordination with this Tuesday’s episode of Born This Way, RespectAbility has released the Born This Way Fan Guide with free resources for a variety of individuals with disabilities. The guide includes free tools, contacts, information and services around:

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RespectAbility & Jobs for People with Disabilities to be Featured on Emmy-Winning Reality Show Born This Way

Air Date: Tuesday, June 6 at 10 PM ET/9c on A&E TV

Brad Sherman speaking at the microphone with a RespectAbility banner behind him

Led by Rep. Brad Sherman, participants during RespectAbility’s “Workforce Development” session discussed how to move the needle on the employment rate of people with disabilities in Los Angeles, California and the country.

Washington, D.C., June 3 – RespectAbility is known for identifying and sharing best practices around advancing education, inclusion, training and employment for people with disabilities. Rep. Brad Sherman, the 10-term Congressman, is known as a serious legislator. So what are they doing in a reality show made by the same company that created Keeping up with the Kardashians, Rob & Chyna and Total Divas?

The reason is simple: they cohosted a major summit with Emmy-winning reality-TV innovator Jonathan Murray (executive producer of the shows listed above, in addition to Real World, Born This Way, Autism the Musical and others), former President George W. Bush appointee on disability issues, Steve Tingus, which was attended by cast members from the Emmy-winning show Born This Way.

The summit, entitled “Ending Stigmas & Bigotry: Expanding Employment for People with Disabilities,” was presented by Rep. Sherman working in partnership with RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities.

Born This Way cast members posing with RespectAbility staff members and Rep. Brad Sherman

RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Born This Way Cast Member Sean McElwee, RespectAbility Communications Director Lauren Appelbaum. Born This Way Cast Members Steven Clark, Cristina Sanz and Megan Bomgaars, Rep. Brad Sherman, Born This Way Executive Producer and RespectAbility Board Member Jonathan Murray

Both Murray and Tingus serve on the board of RespectAbility, whose president, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, and communications director, Lauren Appelbaum, are all featured in an episode of Born This Way that will air on Tuesday night at 10 PM ET/9c on A&E.

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Congressman to Be Featured on Emmy-Winning Reality Show

Born This Way cast members posing with RespectAbility staff members and Rep. Brad Sherman

RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Born This Way Cast Member Sean McElwee, RespectAbility Communications Director Lauren Appelbaum. Born This Way Cast Members Steven Clark, Cristina Sanz and Megan Bomgaars, Rep. Brad Sherman, Born This Way Executive Producer and RespectAbility Board Member Jonathan Murray

Brad Sherman speaking at the microphone with a RespectAbility banner behind him

Participants during RespectAbility’s “Workforce Development” session discuss how to move the needle on the employment rate of people with disabilities in Los Angeles, California and the country. All participants had an opportunity to share ideas during roundtable discussions, as well as in follow-up surveys and conversations. Rep. Brad Sherman attended the session, listening to the ideas presented by all who attended.

Washington, D.C., June 1 – Rep. Brad Sherman, the 10-term Congressman, is known as a serious legislator. So what is he doing in a reality show made by the same company that created Keeping up with the Kardashians, Rob & Chyna and Total Divas?

The reason is simple: he cohosted a major event in his district with Emmy-winning reality-TV innovator Jonathan Murray (executive producer of the shows listed above, in addition to Real WorldBorn This WayAutism the Musical and others) and former President George W. Bush appointee on disability issues, Steve Tingus.

The event, entitled “Ending Stigmas & Bigotry: Expanding Employment for People with Disabilities,” was presented by Sherman working in partnership with RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. Both Murray and Tingus are on the board of RespectAbility, whose president, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, and communications director, Lauren Appelbaum, also are featured in the episode.

Participants in the event included stars from the cast of Emmy-winning reality show Born This Way, which features seven diverse young adults with Down syndrome, as well as other individuals with Autism, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, physical disabilities, amputations and non-visible disabilities. Local experts, including Cathy Gott, Elaine Hall, Sandra McElwee, Joclynn Benjamin and others also participated. Together, participants brainstormed new ideas to move the needle forward on the employment of people with disabilities in a shared agenda. The congressman facilitated these discussions.

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