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Hollywood Webinars

ADA @31: A Focus on the Future – Disabled Directors Leading the Way

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Throughout the summer, RespectAbility is hosting a variety of events, “ADA @31: A Focus on the Future.” In this session, we focused on the way disabled individuals, specifically directors, are making a difference in the entertainment industry. Just a handful of directors in the Directors Guild of America identify as disabled. The RespectAbility Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities is aiming to change this. Eight of the 30 participants in the 2021 Lab are directors and attendees of this event met six of them: Asha Chai-Chang, Ben Fox, Cashmere Jasmine, Jennifer Valdes, Carmen Vincent and Alaa Zabara! This session was moderated by RespectAbility 2020 Lab alumnus Andrew Reid.

Any questions? Please contact Tatiana Lee at [email protected]. [continue reading…]

Celebrating Disabled LGBTQ+ Voices in Media

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As we enter National LGBTQ+ Pride Month (June) every year, we are reminded that disability cuts across all other underrepresented groups and communities. According to a recent study from, an estimated 3-5 million people in the LGBTQ+ community identify as having a disability, accounting for roughly one third of the entire LGBTQ+ community in the US. To celebrate these intersectional voices, RespectAbility highlighted a few of our friends and colleagues, including Nasreen Alkhateeb (Cinematographer & Senior Production Advisor at RespectAbility), Kiah Amara (NYC-based consultant, production coordinator and producer) Eric Ascher (Communications Associate at RespectAbility), Shea Mirzai (writer/producer) and Lenny Larsen (producer/director). The conversation was moderated by RespectAbility’s very own Entertainment Media Fellow, Kelley Cape.
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Celebrating Representation and Inclusion of Disabled AAPI in Media

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It is vital to ensure authentic disability representation, considering that disability intersects with all other underrepresented populations. While AAPI representation in film and television has seen an increase in the past few years, there is still work to be done for AAPI disability representation. Watch a discussion with AAPI creatives working in front of and behind the camera to ensure inclusive representation moving forward. [continue reading…]

Mental Health Action Day: Raising Awareness and Promoting Change Through Authentic Mental Health Representation in Media

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RespectAbility was proud to be a founding partner in the first-ever Mental Health Action Day on Thursday, May 20, spearheaded by MTV Entertainment Group alongside nearly 200 additional brands, nonprofits and cultural leaders. Though more people than ever are comfortable discussing mental health, suicide rates over the last two decades have still risen, particularly among young adults, and finding effective resources and knowing how to get help remains a challenge. We discussed the importance of portraying mental health accurately and authentically in TV, film, and other forms of media, especially as a means to create awareness and serve as a first step to systemic change. Panelists included Nikki Bailey (comedian, actress, author, and producer), Ali MacLean (playwright and TV writer), Diego Kusnir (writer and psychologist) and Amanda Burdine (screenwriter). [continue reading…]

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…]

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