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Hollywood Webinars

Animating Disability with Disney Junior’s Firebuds

Jazzy Jones in the animated series Firebuds.With one-in-five people having a disability in the U.S. today, the lack of representation – less than one percent in children’s television – means that millions of children are unable to see themselves in media today. Furthermore, when representation exists, a great deal of disability representation on screen is of white males. By introducing a female Black character who uses a wheelchair, Disney Junior’s Firebuds, which premiered Sept. 21 on Disney Channel, Disney Junior, and Disney+, is ensuring that a population, which is often overlooked, is represented.

NDEAM Entertainment Media Summit: Disability: A Part of the Equity EquationSet in a fantastical world where talking vehicles live, work, and play with the humans who drive them, Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, who has muscular dystrophy, voices Jazmyn ‘Jazzy’ Jones, a young Black girl with spina bifida. Jazzy’s older brother Jayden is part of a group of first responder friends who help others in their community. Throughout the series, Jazzy is included in a variety of ways as Jayden’s younger sister, who drives a combination wheelchair and automobile.

Watch Lolo Spencer and series creator and executive producer Craig Gerber have a conversation with RespectAbility’s Lauren Appelbaum and Vanni Le, who worked with the team to ensure authentic disability representation in Jazzy and other characters featured throughout the fictional towns of Gearbox Grove and nearby Motopolis where the series takes place. [continue reading…]

2022 NDEAM Entertainment Media Summit

Throughout the month of October 2022, join RespectAbility for a virtual celebration including panel conversations and networking opportunities as we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Please note that some sessions are open only to entertainment industry creatives who identify as deaf or disabled, as we seek to continue to build community. ASL Interpretation and Live Captioning will be available for this event.

Launch Talks: The Making Of Queer As Folk

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NBCU LAUNCH and RespectAbility presented LAUNCH TALKS: THE MAKING OF QUEER AS FOLK (Peacock), a conversation with Stephen Dunn (Showrunner), Ryan O’Connell (Actor & Writer), and Andrew Gurza (Actor & Consultant). They discussed the reimagining of the groundbreaking queer drama series and the importance of authentic and intersectional representation in front of and behind the camera. [continue reading…]

Authentically Representing Mental Health On-Screen While Prioritizing It Off-Screen

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Illustration of a person eating something out of a bowl while seated looking at a laptop on a table. Logos for Women in Film and RespectAbility. Text: “Speaker Series May 19 1 pm PT. Authentically representing Mental Health on-screen and prioritizing it off-screen”RespectAbility was thrilled to present this conversation in partnership with Women In Film to celebrate the second annual Mental Health Action Day. As the global conversation around mental health continues, finding effective resources and knowing how to get help remains a challenge. Convened by MTV Entertainment Group, Mental Health Action Day was created with an open-source model that has effectively united and galvanized brands, organizational leaders, and cultural leaders to seamlessly integrate the message and spirit into their existing branding and voice. In this panel conversation, we spoke with a variety of Film & TV professionals to discuss ways to accurately and authentically represent mental health on-screen, while also prioritizing your own mental health in an industry that hasn’t traditionally given folks the space to do so. [continue reading…]

Being Michelle: Exploring Criminal Justice and Trauma through a Deaf Lens

Presented in partnership with Thriving Roots Initiative and Cleveland International Film Festival

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This panel aimed to discuss in more depth some of the issues facing Deaf/disabled people in the criminal justice system as experienced by the protagonist in the feature length documentary film, Being Michelle. The panel brought together Deaf leaders and advocates as well as individuals who have experienced human rights abuses in the criminal justice system. [continue reading…]

Madagascar: A Little Wild Leading the Way on Deaf and ASL Inclusion in Animation

Presented in Partnership with DreamWorks Animation


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Have you seen DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar: A Little Wild on Hulu or Peacock TV yet? For six seasons, RespectAbility Vice Chair Delbert Whetter, along with Jevon Whetter and Justin Maurer, consulted on this series, which includes a deaf character who uses sign language; the character’s sister also signs. Chimpanzee siblings Dave and Pickles are breaking barriers and are part of a movement changing the landscape of disability representation in children’s television and streaming content. Dave and Pickles have a meaningful story arc throughout the entire series and Dave is not defined by his deafness.

New this season, a little girl named and modeled after deaf actress Shaylee Mansfield trades cards with Dave at the zoo. She was animated by using a video reference of her performing the role. In what is possibly a first for deaf performers, she is credited alongside the “audible” voice actors for her “sign over” performance in the episode “‘Gloria’s Got ‘Em All.”

Learn from the team’s ASL consultants as well as Executive Producer Johanna Stein and Actress Shaylee Mansfield on how they worked together to bring about dynamic deaf characters. [continue reading…]

Best Practices for Ensuring Accessibility in Film Schools

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For many folks who are looking to start a career in the Entertainment industry, whether in development, writing, production, marketing, and everything else in between, the starting point is film school. Since the best way to improve on-screen representation of people with disabilities is to hire more disabled people in all aspects of the storytelling and filmmaking process, how can film schools ensure full accessibility for disabled students and faculty? This event was a conversation with RespectAbility Summer Lab alumni and current working Entertainment professionals, Laura Alsum, Michael Dougherty, Tyler Hoog, Andrew Reid, and Faith Strongheart. We discussed their lived experiences as disabled individuals who have navigated film school, and shared some best practices for schools to ensure accessibility for all.
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