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Hollywood Webinars

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…]

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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New Survey: What Do Disabled U.S. Audiences Think Of Representation On Screen?

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Learn about new research from UCLA Center for Scholars & Storytellers. Explore the results of a new nationwide survey. What do disabled U.S. audiences think of representation on screen?


  • Amanda Aguero, Production Assistant, 2nd Assistant Director, Script Supervisor, Stunt Woman and Actress; Alumna of 2021 RespectAbility Entertainment Lab
  • Maira Karan, Report Author and Developmental Psychology Ph.D. Candidate at UCLA
  • Tatiana Lee, RespectAbility’s Senior Associate for Entertainment Media and Actress/Model
  • Diane J. Wright, Screenwriter and a DEI-certified Creative Content Consultant; Alumna of 2021 RespectAbility Entertainment Lab
Headshots of four speakers for the event

NDEAM Entertainment Media Summit: Fireside Chat with Actor James Caverly and ASL Consultant Douglas Ridloff of Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building

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NDEAM Entertainment Media Summit: A Focus on the Future

This event is part of a larger series of events. Learn more:

This panel was a conversation with actor, James Caverly and ASL consultant, Douglas Ridloff, of Hulu’s hit murder mystery series, Only Murders in the Building, moderated by Deaf producer, writer, and director, Jevon Whetter (Flash Before the Bang). Together the group unpacked James’ recent experience as a Deaf actor portraying a Deaf character in Only Murders in the Building, and Douglas’ experience as an ASL Consultant on this show and other productions, in a discussion that highlighted current best practices in producing TV and film content with ASL dialogue, Deaf performers, and navigating space with Deaf characters.

This panel also explored some of the behind-the-scenes work that went into shaping one of the series’ most recent episodes, which was shot almost entirely in silence utilizing ASL and other forms of visual communication, and discussed the overall importance of authentic and inclusive storytelling when it comes to on-screen representation.


  • James Caverly, Actor, Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building
  • Douglas Ridloff, ASL Consultant, Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building
  • Jevon Whetter, Producer, Writer and Director
Headshots of Douglas Ridloff, James Caverly and Jevon Whetter.

Cast to the Future: Discovering Disabled Talent

Cast to the Future Discovering Disabled Talent

Disabled Characters: Who gets to write them? Who gets to play them?

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NDEAM Entertainment Media Summit: A Focus on the Future

This event is part of a larger series of events. Learn more:

Film Fatales and RespectAbility hosted a panel discussion about inclusive casting with casting consultant Ava Rigelhaupt, filmmaker Alaa Zabara (Salahy) and talent agent Gail Williamson (KMR Talent).

The question of who should tell stories of marginalized and underrepresented voices has been much discussed, sometimes leading to heated stances over artistic freedom, cultural appropriation and accusations of censorship. And yet, disabled stories are sorely lacking in representation. Twenty percent of people have a disability while on-screen representation hovers around three percent, with no meaningful change in the last five years. While more attention is being paid to hiring disabled actors for disabled roles, what about opportunities for disabled actors to play nondisabled characters? And who should be writing these roles? What are best practices for inclusive casting and accessible sets? This event was a deep dive into a conversation about inclusive casting for both visible and nonvisible disabilities, creating accessible sets, and ensuring authentic authorship. [continue reading…]

ADA @31: A Focus on the Future – How Disabled Writers Are Changing the Landscape of the Entertainment Industry

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In this session, we focused on the way disabled individuals, specifically writers, are making a difference in the entertainment industry.

According to a recent report from Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity (TTIE), “93.0% of writers said their most recent writers room had no Disabled or Deaf writers.” Upper-level Disabled or Deaf writers are even more scarce, with only 2.6% of writers reporting that their most recent writers’ room had at least one upper level Disabled or Deaf writer. Currently, the Writers Guild of America West and the Writers Guild of America East do not yet track employment data by disability status.

The RespectAbility Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities is aiming to change this. To date, 25 of the RespectAbility Lab graduates identify as writers, and several are helping to change this landscape. Lab alumni from 2019 and 2020 currently work in the writers’ rooms for Netflix’s Mech Cadet, CW’s 4400 and Showtime’s Dexter, among others. Of the 30 participants in the 2021 Lab, half of the participants are writers, for both TV and film.

Meet 10 of these writers in this webinar recording: Leo Allanach, Amanda Aguero, Nikki Bailey, Colin Buckingham, Tameka Citchen-Spruce, Bella Cosper, Ty Freedman, Sarah Granger, Juliet Romeo and Hilary Van Hoose. This session was moderated by RespectAbility Lab alumna and 2021 Lab Faculty Advisor Ashley Eakin. [continue reading…]

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