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Press Releases

I See What You Cannot See

Baksha Ali smiling holding her white cane with a large forest in the distance behind her“Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision.” – Stevie Wonder

Okay, so I am not a man, and this is a piece for Women’s History Month, but I love this quote because it’s a reminder that my blindness does not define me or my vision. Honestly, in some way, my blindness makes me stronger and more resilient because I have to work harder. My blindness puts me more in touch with my other senses.

I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) when I was five years old, so my parents left Bangladesh, their family, and their livelihood to come to America in search of a cure. They never considered that they might remain in the U.S., but gave up going back home, as they realized that the hope of finding a cure for RP was better here than overseas. Unfortunately, there was no cure to be found then nor now, here nor there.

So, I always knew that I might lose my vision one day. However, knowing and experiencing something is completely different and it took some time to change my outlook on life. As a woman with a disability, it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. I mean, did you know that 80% of woman with a disability are victims of abuse and rape? That’s really high – and scary. So, I don’t trust people easily, despite my friendly personality. [continue reading…]

Unprecedented Opportunity for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities in RespectAbility Lab

Sponsors include Cast & Crew, Comcast NBCUniversal, Final Draft, Fox Corporation, Murray/Reese Foundation, Sony Pictures Entertainment and The Walt Disney Company

Summer Lab 2019 participants smile together around a statue of Mickey Mouse at The Walt Disney animation studios

Summer Lab 2019 participants at The Walt Disney Studios. Credit: Jeff Maynard

Los Angeles, California, March 12 – Great entertainment requires authentic stories and genuine representation of all people. This includes diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. Hence, RespectAbility, the nonprofit that produced The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit, is thrilled to offer the second annual innovative Lab series for emerging entertainment talent, as well as a track for mid-level career professionals. This 5-week, 10-session summer Lab is for people with disabilities interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles.

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21,000 Californians With Disabilities Lost Jobs Even Before the Coronavirus

RespectAbility to hold LA session on Thursday, March 12th on “How Disability Inclusion & Equity Can Add to Your Success”

Los Angeles, CA, Mar. 9 – Even as coronavirus quickly escalates into a major economic disruption for the nation, new data shows that Californians with disabilities already were struggling to keep their place in the state’s labor force.

According to the recently released 2019 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, there are more than 1.8 million working-age Californians living with a disclosed disability, but only 700,456 have jobs. That puts putting California’s disability employment rate at just 36.9 percent, below the already low national average of 37 percent. This rate is less than half of the 75.6 percent of Californians without disabilities who have jobs. [continue reading…]

Changing Media Perceptions of Disability, One Film at a Time

Los Angeles, California, March 5 – “I don’t look like people in Hollywood. I’m small. I have a disability. I wasn’t sure if I could have a career.”

Writer-director Ashley Eakin is breaking barriers. Once ashamed of her physical disability, Eakin is now proud to be an advocate and filmmaker in this community.

Ashley Eakin smiling on the set of a film shoot in a child's bedroom“My journey into accepting this part of my identity has been a very long one. For over 30 years, I was an unknowing ableist because I was so ashamed of my disability. I was consistently hiding my bone disease, until one day I realized I had my own unconscious bias. Unfortunately, a lot of society does see disability in a negative context, which had influenced the way I felt about myself all those years. I think once I was able to confront that bias, and understand the history and type of culture I was born into, I started to accept that maybe it’s not my fault I feel this way. This was a big catalyst for my mission on wanting to change the way the world sees us.“ [continue reading…]

Women with Disabilities Dramatically Outpace Men with Disabilities in Job Gains

108,638 New Jobs for Women with Disabilities in the U.S., 94,749 Lost Jobs for Men with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., March 5 – As we celebrate Women’s History Month, women with disabilities have particular reasons to celebrate. Comparing the annual disability statistics, the nonpartisan disability inclusion organization RespectAbility shows that approximately 108,000 women with disabilities entered the workforce in 2018.

This is a major accomplishment given that the disability community writ large struggled nationwide to add more workers to the economy. In fact, during the same time period, 94,749 working-age males with disabilities left the workforce. This means, in terms of job growth, there was just an increase of 29,893 jobs for people with disabilities in 2018, a ten-fold decrease compared to the more than 343,000 new jobs for people with disabilities two years ago. [continue reading…]

La’Rina Carolina: “Pioneer breaking the inequality lines between deaf and hearing societies”

La'Rina Carolina headshot smilingAs the country celebrates the contributions of African Americans during Black History Month, webhost La’Rina Carolina reflects upon her intersecting identities of being a being a deaf Black woman in the United States today, noting each of these three parts of her identities becomes a “barrier.”

“I am proud of being black and I love myself and my heritage,” Carolina said. “But driving while black is real and driving while deaf is even scarier. I don’t understand why, we aren’t treated equally.” [continue reading…]

16,794 New Jobs for African Americans with Disabilities

However, only 29.7 percent of working-age African Americans with disabilities are employed

Washington, D.C. Feb. 25 – As we celebrate Black History Month, which takes place every February, RespectAbility recognizes the contributions made and the important presence of African Americans to the United States. It is important to note this includes more than 5.4 million African Americans living with a disability in the U.S., 3.2 million of whom are working-age African Americans with disabilities. Therefore, we would like to reflect on the realities and challenges that continue to shape the lives of African Americans with disabilities.

New statistics released by the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire show that the employment rate for African Americans with disabilities has continued to grow even as other part of the disability community have lost economic ground. In 2018, the disability employment rate of working-age African Americans with disabilities increased to 29.7 percent compared to 28.6 percent in 2017. While that is an improvement, it lags far behind the 74.4 percent of working-age African Americans without disabilities who have jobs. Indeed, national statistics show that only 37.6 percent of working age people with disabilities overall have jobs compared to 77.8 percent of working-age people without disabilities. Fully 32.3 percent of African Americans with disabilities live in poverty, compared to just 22.4 percent of African Americans without disabilities. [continue reading…]

Ten-Fold Decrease in Job Gains for People with Disabilities

Barely 29,000 new jobs for people with disabilities in 2018.

  • Only 29,893 people with disabilities entered the workforce in 2018, a ten-fold decrease compared to the more than 343,000 new jobs for people with disabilities two years ago.
  • Arizona saw the biggest job gains of any state, adding more than 17,000 people with disabilities to the state’s economy.
  • At the same time, California saw the biggest job losses among people with disabilities, with more than 21,000 workers with disabilities leaving the labor force.

Washington, D.C., Feb. 24 – New statistics show that job gains among Americans with disabilities have dramatically fallen compared to previous years of sustain growth. The Disability Statistics Compendium, released earlier this month by the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, shows that the national disability employment rate has only risen to 37.6 percent compared to 37 percent last year. [continue reading…]

Increased Representation at the Academy Awards Makes History

Zack Gottsagen First Actor with Down syndrome to Present an Award While Tobias Forrest and Victoria Canal Broke Additional Barriers in Performance

Zack Gottsagen presenting with Shia LeBeouf on stage at the 2020 Academy Awards with captions on screenLos Angeles, Feb. 13 – When actor Zack Gottsagen presented an award alongside The Peanut Butter Falcon co-star Shia LeBeouf Sunday evening, he made history as the Academy Awards’ first presenter with Down syndrome. The Peanut Butter Falcon provides cultural relevance on issues important to the disability community such as independence while creating wide-reaching impact. The film has grossed more than $20 million and holds an approval rating of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes – showing that casting authentically can lead a studio to financial and critical success.

Neither Gottsagen nor the film were nominated for an Oscar, however, which Emily Kranking raised in an article about the lack of disability being included in conversations about diversity at the Oscars. In 1993, Educating Peter, a film that follows third-grade student Peter Gwazdauskas, who lives with Down syndrome, won the Oscar for best documentary short. [continue reading…]

Erev JDAD Convenes Jewish Self-Advocates and Leaders From Around the Country

A group of individuals with disabilities, two seated in wheelchairs, smiling for the camera

Erev-JDAD participants

Washington, D.C., Feb. 7 – More than 80 Jewish disability advocates joined together for the inaugural Erev JDAD – the eve before Jewish Disability Advocacy Day – to discuss a variety of important topics regarding disability inclusion. Having surveyed attendees’ interests beforehand, hot topics covered twice-over were civic engagement and advocacy, leadership development, synagogue inclusion, and employment. Other topic discussions included self-advocacy, housing, fundraising, early childhood education, Jewish camping, and fighting stigmas.

While JDAD – a day of civic education and lobbying organized by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism – has been in existence for 10 years, this is the first formal gathering bringing some of the advocates that come in from across the country together to collaborate. Conceived by RespectAbility, the idea of Erev JDAD was to enable JDAD attendees from around the country to be able to have more time to network with each other – sharing their community’s best practices and planting the seeds for new ones. [continue reading…]

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