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Press Releases

Q&A about Premiere of Young Sheldon

Rockville, Md., Sept. 27 – In Monday night’s premiere of Young Sheldon, a spin-off prequel to The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper, a profoundly gifted (PG) nine-year old, is about to enter high school. Alienated from his community, he has multiple social limitations without the support needed in 1989 East Texas.

In The Big Bang Theory, Jim Parsons won an Emmy for his portrayal of adult Sheldon, who is never diagnosed on either show but fits the profile of a twice-exceptional character.

The term twice exceptional, often abbreviated as 2e, entered educators’ lexicon in the mid-1990s and refers to intellectually gifted children who have some form of disability. These children are considered exceptional both because of their intellectual gifts and because of their disabilities.

Stephanie is the mother of a young daughter who is PG and 2e. She shared some of her thoughts about the first episode of the show.

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Voters with Disabilities Matter – This Year and Every Year

National Voter Registration Day

woman with a cane and man in a wheelchair at voting boothWashington, Sept. 26 – RespectAbility is honored to participate in the sixth annual National Voter Registration Day (NVRD), a nonpartisan effort to encourage people to register to vote and make their voices heard in our nation’s political process. Today, organizations nationwide will register thousands of new voters.

However, if you read the news today, many people might feel discouraged, disconnected or unconvinced that their voices matter. Last year, it was clear that getting the vote out mattered with the high stakes of a presidential race and key Senate contests across the country. What about this year? Why should people get out, get registered and get out the voter in a quiet year like 2017? The reason is simple.

As the former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Tip O’Neill famously said, “All politics is local.” Did you know that 59 of the 100 largest cities in America are holding elections this year? Did you know there are 36 mayoral races and more than 360 city council races in 2017 alone? In communities across the country, local, municipal and state elections are taking place this year.

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Networks Set to Premiere 4 Shows Featuring Disability

Television Academy: Diversity Inclusion Includes Disability

back view of a young man watching a big tv panelLos Angeles, Calif., Sept. 25 – As diversity takes on a more important focus in Hollywood, disability is gaining prominence as four shows, two new, premiere this week: Young Sheldon (Season One) on CBS and The Good Doctor (Season One) on ABC tonight, This Is Us (Season Two) on NBC on Tuesday and Speechless (Season Two) on ABC on Wednesday evening.

Every season, networks premiere new shows in hopes of increasing their viewership. In recent years, the fight for ratings has included the need for expanding diversity – with shows like Black-ish receiving eight Emmy nominations in the past two years, including for Outstanding Comedy Series both years.

Yet while there has been an increased focus on diversity when it comes to race, gender and sexual identity, the same has not been true for disability. Shows like Young Sheldon and The Good Doctor show the trend may be changing.

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The Khmer Parent Association: Serving Cambodian Americans with Disabilities in Long Beach, California

A group of people holding a banner reading "Khmer Parent Association - please help to support our youth for the future."

Khmer Parent Association

Long Beach, Calif. – The Khmer Parent Association (KPA) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, which serves the community of Long Beach, California. The mission is to “produce tomorrow’s leaders of today’s Khmer youth through education.” The organization serves approximately 1,000 people a year including youths, adults and the elderly. KPA has a prominent role in the community because of its commitment to support children with education services and residents with cultural awareness and health education.

History of KPA

After throwing a small party to celebrate high school graduates in the Long Beach community, Chad Hopson founded the KPA in 1995. In 1994, when Hopson’s oldest son graduated with high honors in high school, Hopson and her family attended the graduation ceremony to showcase their happiness and support for her son. However, Hopson “felt so bad” when she recognized graduates she knew, and did not see their parents in the audience. Therefore, she decided to throw a party for all of the graduates to celebrate their success.

After the positive response to the party, which encouraged graduates to continue to strive for their goals and success, a guidance counselor who worked closely with the school district pulled Hopson aside. The guidance counselor wanted to work with Hopson, because she believed Hopson could reach students. The guidance counselor explained that there was a high rate of high school drop outs at the time, and parents did not “know what to do to help their children the way you do, so you need to do something.”

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Emmy Nominees Include People with Disabilities

Authentic Disability Representation Necessary to Ensure Largest Minority is Included

Emmy TrophyLos Angeles, Calif., Sept. 15 – As Hollywood celebrates Emmy season last weekend and this weekend, it’s important to highlight the several nominees with disabilities. In contrast to the Academy Awards earlier this year, no known actor with a disability was nominated for an Oscar. Including authentic disability in the diversity conversation is important to ensure that Hollywood does not leaves out the largest minority in the U.S.

Creative Arts Emmy Awards

Last weekend during the Creative Arts Emmy Awards presentation at the Microsoft Theater, several nominations were for individuals with a disability or for a show with a disability theme.

Streaming service Netflix came out with a hit new show – Stranger Things. The series was nominated for multiple awards this year, including “Outstanding Drama Series,” “Outstanding Supporting Actress” and “Outstanding Supporting Actor.” Actor Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin in the series, has cleidocranial dysplasia. The genetic disorder affects the development of a person’s bones and teeth.

In documentaries, Sam Neill, narrator of Wild New Zealand and Emmy nominee for “Outstanding Narrator,” had a speech impediment as a child.

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Series Starring Cast with Disabilities Continues to Break Glass Ceiling

Born This Way Takes Home Two More Emmy’s for Cinematography and First-Ever Emmy for Casting

An African American man and a white woman dressed in a tux and gown back stage

Born This Way’s John Tucker and Rachel Osterbach back stage after they presented awards in three categories at the Emmy’s Creative Arts Awards.

Los Angeles, Calif., Sept. 11 – A&E Network’s critically acclaimed and award-winning original docuseries Born This Way’s honors keep adding up – showing that disability is a winning theme. This series starring a cast with disabilities, which received six Emmy nominations this year, won two Emmy’s at Saturday night’s Creative Arts Emmy Awards for Casting for a Reality Program and Cinematography for a Reality Program – after bringing home the Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Series in 2016.

Produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, Born This Way, an unscripted reality show on A&E, follows a group of seven young adults with Down syndrome along with their family and friends in Southern California. Because its focus is on showing their everyday lives, including employment, efforts for independent housing, loves and more, Born this Way breaks down stigmas surrounding disability.

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How and Why Did Cambodians Settle in Long Beach, California

The unveiling of "Cambodia Town" official street sign in Long Beach, California

The unveiling of “Cambodia Town” official street sign in Long Beach, California

Long Beach, Calif., Sept. 20 – Today, there are about 320,000 Cambodian Americans in the United States. California has the highest population of Cambodian Americans with an estimate of 118,000 people. Long Beach, California has the largest and oldest Cambodian community in the nation with at least 20,000 people.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Cambodia and the United States created a program for Cambodian students to attend California colleges and universities. The students learned about agriculture, industrial arts and engineering. After students completed their degrees, they returned to Cambodia. When Cambodia ended diplomatic relations with the United States in the mid-1960s, the program ended as well. However, several students decided to remain in the United States permanently. When the first wave of Cambodian refugees came to the United States at Camp Pendleton, California, which was 70 miles south of Long Beach, the former students visited the refugees. The former students brought them meals and supplies; they ended up sponsoring refugees to earn their citizenship and to help them adjust to life in a foreign country. This student support system resulted in the formation of the Cambodian Association of America, which attracted subsequent refugees who came to Long Beach after the Cambodian genocide because of the Association’s ability to help the refugees adapt to life in the United States.

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RespectAbility Condemns Racism & Anti-Semitism in Charlottesville

Rockville, Md., Aug. 18 – RespectAbility strongly condemns the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia and expresses concern about more demonstrations being planned by white nationalists this weekend. People with disabilities cut across every group in America, including those of all races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations and religions. There is no room in America for any prejudice of any kind.

Our thoughts are with the Charlottesville victims and their families. Last weekend in Virginia, Heather Heyer was killed and dozens were injured when a young man who idolized Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany drove his car into a group of counter-protestors. At the same time, protestors marched past Congregation Beth Israel, shouting, “There’s the synagogue!” followed by chants of ‘Seig Heil’ and other anti-Semitic language.

There is no room for the racism and anti-Semitism that was so evident in Charlottesville and continues today across America. RespectAbility condemns any and all prejudice.

A Better Future for Children & Young Adults with Disabilities in Long Beach

Long Beach, California – Children and young adults with disabilities will have new hope and opportunities thanks to grants from two California foundations, including the Long Beach Community Foundation and the work of RespectAbility. New seed funding is being invested to support local leaders and to develop community resources that will enable more students, parents and families to succeed.

Long Beach is a beautiful city with a vibrant downtown, growing economic opportunities and a winning Mayor who is deeply committed to serving this diverse city. There are dedicated community leaders and self-advocates who are eager to make things better for their friends, neighbors and family members with disabilities.

Today there are 46,000 working-age residents with disabilities in Long Beach. Just 21 percent of working-age people with disabilities have a job in the Long Beach economy, putting the city below the national average of 34.9 percent. However, a new initiative is looking at ways to make things better for job seekers and employers alike. This effort has a special focus on filling key jobs where people with disabilities can excel.

Through a Knight Foundation grant, the Long Beach Community Foundation and and another funder are supporting RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization with deep experience around advancing opportunities for people with diverse abilities.

“The Long Beach Community Foundation initiates positive change in our community through strategic grant-making,” said Marcelle Epley, President & CEO of the Community Foundation. “We are delighted to support Respectability’s efforts through our Knight Foundation Fund. By working with local leaders, we can support our community to attract and retain people with diverse abilities, provide economic opportunities, and support civic engagement.”

Those three goals are critically linked to efforts that RespectAbility is investing in getting to know local leaders and understanding local economic conditions. “We are eager to learn from community members who want to coordinate and collaborate with each other,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, the president of RespectAbility. “We want to help Long Beach benefit from new strategies that will result in more opportunities and independence for people with and without disabilities alike.”

The group is working on a new community resource guide with detailed information about local programs and services for children and youth with disabilities. They also are preparing a toolkit with solutions based on community feedback and new proven best practices. RespectAbility is hosting meetings for local residents to get to know each other and act on these new opportunities.

“We are thrilled that the Long Beach Community Foundation is supporting this effort,” said Philip Kahn-Pauli, the Policy Director who will work directly with community members. “People with disabilities want opportunities for training, civic engagement and success, just like anyone else. This effort will positively impact everyone in Long Beach from educators to students to parents to local employers.”

The local infrastructure is a key reason why Long Beach gained the attention of a national group looking to partner with leaders and turn the city into a national model.

“Long Beach has an award-winning school system and a nationally recognized workforce development board,” Kahn-Pauli added. “We look forward to helping fill gaps when it comes to employment opportunities, especially youth with disabilities. We want to find and to support local leaders with cutting edge practices and share their stories nation-wide.”

Youth with disabilities and their parents stand to greatly benefit from this work. The Long Beach Unified School District is the second largest district in Los Angeles County and serves more than 9,600 students with disabilities out of a total population of 75,000 students. The current high school graduation rate for Long Beach students with disabilities is 62.4 percent, compared to 84.2 percent for nondisabled students. In the Long Beach Class of 2016, 413 students with disabilities graduated high school, while 110 students dropped out and 76 received only a certificate.

“That cohort of young people with disabilities,” Kahn-Pauli added, “represent a talent pool that can go on to achieve great things in college and contribute greatly to the local economy.” The reason for that is simple. Because traditional ways of doing things do not always work for people with disabilities, people with diverse talents can find incredible ways to innovate and succeed. In fact, some of the greatest companies on earth were started and led by people with disabilities.

RespectAbility regularlys highlights the incredible drive, determination and creativity that people with disabilities bring to their life and work. Innovators Richard Branson and Charles Schwab like Governors Hickenlooper and Bryant is dyslexic. Arthur Young of EY was both deaf and visually impaired. Likewise, Steve Wynn is legally blind. Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, scientist Stephen Hawking, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein, Congressman Jim Langevin, Snoop Dog, Senators Tammy Duckworth, John McCain and Tommy the “one arm golfer” all have disabilities.

In reaching out to the business community in Long Beach, RespectAbility hopes to showcase how people with disabilities bring unique characteristics to workplaces that benefit employers and organizations. Nationally Amazon, AT&T, Bank of America, Starbucks, Pepsi, Walgreens, Walmart and others have all shown that employees with disabilities are loyal, successful and help them make more money. Jennifer Mizrahi went on to add that “inclusion of people with disabilities in the Long Beach workforce will help the city overall thrive.”

This new effort will host its first formal meeting on Monday, August 14 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Pike Long Beach Hyatt (285 Bay Street, Long Beach, CA 90802.) Marcelle Epley, Long Beach Community Foundation President & CEO will provide opening remarks at the event from 9:30a.m. to 10:00a.m. This will be the first of a series of meetings to recruit and empower local leaders to advance new opportunities for education, training, and employment in the community. Learn more and RSVP here:

Media Contact: Lauren Appelbaum, 202-591-0703 or


From Hollywood to Capitol Hill: The Future of Americans with Disabilities
Featuring Leah Daniels-Butler, Casting Director and Producer, Tommy Morrissey, the One-Arm Golfer, and Marc Summers of The Food Network

Rockville, Md., July 28 – RespectAbility invites you to our free one-day summit, From Hollywood to Capitol Hill: The Future of Americans with Disabilities, geared toward bridging the gap between entertainment, politics and disability advocacy. This entirely accessible event is open to the public.

The summit will take place on Monday, July 31 from 8:30 A.M. – 3:00 P.M. at the Rayburn House Office Building, Gold Room on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The summit will celebrate the good that can be done to end stigmas and advance opportunities for the 57 million Americans with disabilities.

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Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.


HQ: 11333 Woodglen Drive, #102, Rockville, MD 20852
West Coast: 350 S Bixel Street
Los Angeles CA 90017

Office Number: 202-517-6272


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