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Actress with Cerebral Palsy Diana Elizabeth Jordan is Veteran of 40 Shows, Shorts and Movies

Diana Elizabeth Jordan smiling in front of a tree

Diana Elizabeth Jordan

Diana Elizabeth Jordan, an award winning actress, writer, producer and director, is an important figure in the conversation about the inclusivity or lack thereof of people with disabilities in Hollywood. She found a way to get into and around Hollywood, with the help of her faith and self-confidence.

“There have been plenty of times in my life where I haven’t felt positive but I try my best to let the positive outweigh the negative and I think my faith in God has a lot to do with that,” said Jordan.

Jordan has cerebral palsy, which mildly affects her speech and gait. She has been acting professionally since she graduated from college. She began her career working in Chicago Theater. She also was the first actor with a disability to obtain Masters of Fine Arts in Acting from California State University Long Beach in 2001.

Since beginning her career, Diana has built an impressive list of over 40 credits in theater, film and television including her first T.V. guest star role on The WB’s 7th Heaven in 2004. The majority of roles she has been cast in have not been disability specific. It has always been important to her to be cast in roles where her disability is incidental to the character or storyline.

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Maya Angelou, Legendary Poet and Civil Rights Activist Who Had Disability, Inspires Generations

Image of Maya Angelou from around 1970, black and white photo of her face looking to the side

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was an award-winning author, poet, civil rights activist, college professor and screen writer. Most recognized for her literary works, Angelou was and remains among the most influential woman of her time. After passing away in 2014, Angelou still is widely remembered and honored for her hard work and perseverance over decades.

As a child, Angelou was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend. She told her brother, who told the rest of their family. While the boyfriend was found guilty, he was jailed for just one day. Four days later, he was murdered, with the theory that Angelou’s uncles did so. As a result, Angelou became mute for almost five years.

“I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name,” she later said. “And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone.”

Angelou had selective mutism, an anxiety disorder that causes a child to not speak due to physical and psychological trauma they endured. In the five-year span that she experienced this, her listening, observing and memorizing skills improved and her love of books expanded. This helped her later when she began working in becoming successful in her career.

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Whoopi Goldberg: Talented Actress, Comedienne and Talk Show Host Lives with Dyslexia

Whoopi Goldberg headshot wearing a gray sweater

Comedienne, actress and talk show host Whoopi Goldberg

Deloris in Sister Act, Whoopi on The View, Shenzi the Hyena in The Lion King—many of us can connect at least one character in a favorite show or movie with Whoopi Goldberg. Not as many can recognize her as a person with dyslexia. Dyslexia is a general term for disorders that involves difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but does not affect general intelligence. Indeed, singer and activist Harry Belafonte, Shark Tank star and businessman Daymond John and businessman Richard Branson all have dyslexia like Goldberg.

Goldberg is recognized widely for her work. She is one of few people to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award. However, as a child, Goldberg constantly faced negative feedback. People used to think she was lazy or not trying. She dropped out of school by age 17 and continued her education by going to museums and public lectures, according to the Child Mind Institute.

“What I remember about being a kid was that I felt pretty protected, I wasn’t afraid, and I had a mother who understood after a while that there was something different about the way I learn,” Goldberg recalls in talking with the Child Mind Institute.

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Halle Berry: Living with Disability While Taking a Stand against Domestic Violence

Halle Berry headshot smiling facing the camera with gold hoop earrings

Halle Berry

Halle Berry is much more than a sex symbol; she is a fighter who lives with disability.

The best dressed actress is an advocate for ending violence against women, an advocate for individuals with disabilities, and has been fighting for virtually her whole life.

The Cleveland, Ohio native was raised by a single mother along with her sister after her abusive father abandoned the family.

“When I was a girl and my mother had the s–t kicked out of her, her self-esteem moved onto me,” said Berry.

Berry’s career began as a model. In 1985 she won first runner up in Miss USA and became the first African American Miss World entrant.

Just four years later, Berry was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes, meaning that her body does not produce insulin. “I fell ill – dramatically – when I was on the TV show, Living Dolls, in 1989. I felt I needed energy but I didn’t even have a minute to pop out and get a chocolate bar,” she said. “I didn’t really know what was wrong.”

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Solange Knowles: Role Model for African American Performers with Disabilities

Solange Knowles wearing a black and yellow dress smiling for the camera

Solange Knowles

When it comes to the traditional expectations of a pop star in Hollywood, Solange Knowles shatters the glass ceiling as a woman of color who also happens to be diagnosed with a disability that affects 10 percent of the U.S. population: ADHD. Knowles has been outspoken about her ADHD, educating people about her disability.

Through her impressive resume that includes music, art, dance and acting, Knowles is recognized as an elite in her industry. As a Soul Train Award recipient, an honoree at Glamour’s Women of the Year 2017 Awards, and, of course, holding a Grammy which celebrates her debut album “A Seat at the Table,” Knowles shares a positive portrayal of women of color in the art scene. It is no secret that Knowles is a powerhouse through her unique artistry.

“I was diagnosed with ADHD twice,” Knowles said. “I didn’t believe the first doctor who told me, and I had a whole theory that ADHD was just something they invented to make you pay for medicine, but then the second doctor told me I had it.”

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Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Elliott ‘Works it,’ Serves as Role Model for Young Women with Disabilities

At the height of her career, Missy Elliott experienced a dramatic and dangerous weight loss; she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, which attacks the thyroid.

Missy Elliot smiling for the camera, dressed in a black and white outift

Missy Elliott

Forty-six-year-old businesswoman, rapper and Grammy award winner Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott never has had it easy. She was born and raised in a “rat infested shack” in Virginia. As a child, she watched her father brutalize her mother and at the age of 14, she was raped by her cousin. It was only after begging her mother to leave her father did the two women escape and Elliott began the start of what was going to be a tumultuous and exceptional career.

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Murphy Learns a Lesson in Discrimination

Rockville, Md., Jan 29 – The title of the 13th episode, “Seven Reasons,” is in reference to why Dr. Shaun Murphy thinks people lie. Themes include intellectual disability, ethics and religion.

Freddie Highmore, the actor who plays Murphy, portrays a person with autism, a developmental disability that affects 1 in 68 children. Many people with autism experience social and communication issues. Throughout the episode, Murphy talks in a robotic tone, talks about a subject obsessively, misunderstands social cues and avoids eye contact.

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RespectAbility Recommends New Strategies to Promote the Success of Youth with Disabilities on Benefits

RespectAbility Submits Comments to the Social Security Administration in Response to Request for Information on Strategies to Improve Adult Outcomes for Youth Receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Rockville, Md., Jan. 26 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, submitted the following comments to the Social Security Administration in response to their Request for Information (RFI) to elicit ideas, strategies, and best practices related to improving adult economic outcomes for youth aged 14 to 25 with disabilities receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). We are a national, non-partisan, nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. We advocate for the 1-in-5 Americans who have a physical, intellectual, sensory, learning, attention, mental health or other disability. This includes 6 million students with diagnosed disabilities who are enrolled in America’s public schools. We invited SSA to sustain its commitment to improving outcomes for youth with disabilities by considering the range of best practices that are achieving transformative results.  [continue reading…]

Dr. Shaun Murphy Evolves, Becomes More Independent, on The Good Doctor

While Dr. Glassman serves as Dr. Murphy’s mentor, now that Murphy is a successful adult, how involved should Glassman be in his personal life?

Rockville, Md., Jan. 22 – The mid-season premiere of The Good Doctor opens with Dr. Shaun Murphy running away from conflict based on what his mentor Dr. Aaron Glassman believes is best for him, which includes seeing a therapist.

Prior to the season break, Glassman introduced Murphy to Melissa Born, a therapist. Murphy previously had rejected a life skills coach because she could not “select a complimenting wardrobe.”

“I can’t always be there,” Glassman argued. “I can’t always help you the way you deserve to be helped.”

But Murphy responded emphatically, “I don’t want a stranger helping me.”

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The Fosters Tackles Low Expectations for Students with Disabilities

Images of the characters from The Fosters with the text: The Fosters, Freeform

The Fosters

Rockville, Md., Jan. 20 – Season five of The Fosters returned with a bang – tackling issues from low expectations for students with disabilities to immigration rights.

Last season one of the leading characters, Jesus, had a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The show did a good job conveying how a person might change after experiencing a TBI. The show also shares how TBI affects the relationships between family and friends for people who have a TBI.

On the first day back at school this season, his teachers have lower expectations for Jesus, giving him less homework and more flexibility with test taking. He also is made fun of by his classmates, one saying he wished he had been hit in the head to receive the “benefits” Jesus is getting.

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