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Hollywood Webinars

Example of Best Practice: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

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A scene from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood with Max playing with toy carsWith 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, almost all representation of autism on screen is of white males. By introducing a new character who is both autistic and Black, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is ensuring that a population, which is often overlooked, is represented. The show authentically cast Israel Thomas-Bruce, who was diagnosed with autism when he was four years old, as Max. “It was exciting to play Max because it gave me the opportunity to help shed light on children living with autism,” Thomas-Bruce said. “I am excited to know that another child can see Max on TV and see himself being represented. I felt at ease playing Max because it didn’t feel like I was pretending. I also like that Max looks like me.” Learn how the character of Max offers an authentic representation of Autism for children and adult audiences alike. [continue reading…]

FYC: A Conversation with the “Feeling Through” Team

Presented by RespectAbility in Partnership with Helen Keller Services & Doug Roland Films


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RespectAbility Board Member Delbert Whetter sat down with the team behind “Feeling Through” which is currently on the Academy Awards’ shortlist for Best Live Action Short. In “Feeling Through,” a late-night encounter on a New York City street leads to a profound connection between a teen-in-need and a DeafBlind man. Authentically cast in that role is actor Robert Tarango, who is the first deafblind lead in a film ever.

Watch a conversation with writer/director/producer Doug Roland, producer and CEO of Helen Keller Services, Sue Ruzenski, and co-lead actor Robert Tarango. ASL interpreters and Live captioning will be provided.

The film can be viewed below: [continue reading…]

Panel Discussion: Intelligent Lives

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Intelligent Lives stars three pioneering young adults with intellectual disabilities—Micah, Naieer, and Naomie—who challenge perceptions of intelligence as they navigate high school, college, and the workforce. Award-winning actor and narrator Chris Cooper contextualizes the lives of these central characters through the emotional and personal story of his son Jesse, as the film unpacks the shameful and ongoing track record of intelligence testing in the United States.

Watch a lively dialogue about the poignant film, moderated by Joy Stein, Director of Inclusion and Disability Programming at the Edlavitch DCJCC. Featured panelists are Carly Okyle, Jordyn Zimmerman, and Yonatan Koch, all members of RespectAbility’s National Disability Speakers Bureau: Jewish Division. [continue reading…]

Mentorships Matter


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Learn about a new mentorship program by Women of Color Unite, #Startwith8Hollywood, which is enabling women of color opportunities to break through the gates. Learn from women of color with disabilities who have taken part in the program and why mentorships are key for individuals from multiple-marginalized backgrounds to succeed. Moderated by RespectAbility’s Tatiana Lee, panelists included Cheryl Bedford (Women of Color Unite), Manon De Reeper (Women of Color Unite), Thuc Nguyen (Bitch Pack), Sheryl J. Anderson (Showrunner, Steel Magnolias, and #Startwith8Hollywood Mentor), and Ava Rigelhaupt and Diana Romero, both RespectAbility Lab Alumni and #Startwith8Hollywood Mentees.

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The Nuts & Bolts of Producing Deaf Content & Working with Deaf Performers

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Presented in ASL with interpreters, learn from experts with lived experiences about producing authentic deaf content and working with deaf performers. Learn more about communication strategies, producing tips, terminology and best practices when working with the deaf community and how to make your filmmaking process as inclusive as possible. This session featured members of the film CODA, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival on January 28. [continue reading…]

“Bridging the Gap” – Media Accessibility & Audio Description


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The impact, creative power and reach of audio description accessibility assets being included as part of the film deliverables can be very rewarding. Incorporating and embracing an equal audience share mindset provides inclusive access to the extensive efforts and investments of creating media content. Often overlooked is the language of audio description interpreting visual content on screen to accommodate blind and low vision audiences. Equivalent to that is the language of closed captions interpreting dialogue and sound to accommodate Deaf and Hard of Hearing audiences. The future of media content is very exciting as we witness the rapid expansion and movement toward incorporating overall accessibility to ensure entertainment and information is an engaging collective experience shared by all audiences on multiple platforms. [continue reading…]

Conversations Through the Lens: A 360 View of Disability on Set

Presented in collaboration with Film Independent

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Having proper disability representation behind the camera is vital to ensure equity in Hollywood. Award-winning directors Nasreen Alkhateeb and Andrew Reid, who both acquired disabilities as young adults, and director Shaina Ghuraya who has two films at Slamdance 2021, all have first-hand experience in navigating on-set life with a disability and will share their experiences on and off set. Learn from Alice Austen (Producer, Give Me Liberty) and Hikari (Writer/Producer/Director, 37 Seconds) about what it takes to run a set that welcomes and ensures universal design for crew members and actors with disabilities. Moderated by David Radcliff, this panel provided a 360 view into what is like to be a filmmaker with a disability and what it takes to improve the Hollywood environment and culture to make everything more accessible.

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The Accessibility of Filmmaking

Presented in collaboration with Film Independent

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This panel informed and ensured that not only films are accessible, but that accessibility is kept in mind throughout the entire process. Having people with disabilities behind and in front of the camera makes for better and more inclusive stories, even if the project is not disability related. Introduced by Film Independent’s Josh Welsh and moderated by RespectAbility’s Tatiana Lee, this panel covered accessibility touch points throughout the entire filmmaking process, from hiring and casting disabled talent, making film sets accessible, and ensuring that the film itself is accessible. Attendees heard first-hand from other filmmakers on the festival circuit on how they were able to implement best practices. [continue reading…]

Webinar: Ensuring Authentic Representation of Hispanic and Latinx Disabled People in the Entertainment Industry


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Authentic representation of marginalized populations on screen is vitally important as what people view on screen influences how they act in real-life. This Hispanic Heritage Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), we were proud to spotlight Hispanic and Latinx individuals with disabilities who are changing the landscape in the entertainment industry. [continue reading…]

Webinar: Example of Best Practice: DreamWorks’ Madagascar: A Little Wild

Presented in Partnership with DreamWorks Animation


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Pickles and Dave in a scene from Madagascar A Little Wild communicating via ASLHave you seen DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar: A Little Wild on Hulu or Peacock TV yet? RespectAbility board member 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. Learn from the team’s ASL consultants as well as Executive Producer Johanna Stein, Co-Executive Producer and Story Editor Dana Starfield and Supervising Director TJ Sullivan on how these teams worked together to bring about dynamic deaf characters.

“When it comes to animation, there’s no excuse not to create a show filled with diverse characters. As animators we are world builders, we are literally creating all of the elements from scratch,” said EP Johanna Stein. Learn More: “Madagascar: A Little Wild” Takes Deaf Representation to the Next Level. [continue reading…]

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