Fighting Stigmas & Prejudices: Connecting People, Making it Happen in Hollywood
Standing up against ableism and other prejudice while promoting positive, accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on TV and in film
RespectAbility is working on changing the narrative in Hollywood to ensure accurate and positive cultural media portrayals of people with disabilities. We partner with leaders in the entertainment industry on the full inclusion of people with disabilities, both in front of and behind the camera, and we are now looking for more partners to help move the needle on two core issues: inclusion and diversity in Hollywood and the employment of people with disabilities.
An increase in positive, diverse and accurate portrayals of people with disabilities on television and film can significantly help end stigmas that limit their health and lives.
What is RespectAbility doing to change this? Through our work with partners, including disability experts and self-advocates, we are educating entertainment and media professionals (including studio and network heads, directors, showrunners, producers, writers, casting directors, talent agents, actors and diversity / social responsibility leaders) on the importance of disability inclusion, accessibility and acceptance. This work will continue through educational tools such as fact sheets and consultations as well as events including panel discussions, screenings, roundtables, briefings, individual meetings and site visits.
RespectAbility is entertainment’s partner to:
- Get raw, real, compelling, diverse and inclusive stories that will make TV and film even better.
- Set the bar on creating welcoming entertainment that makes a powerful connection with audiences.
- Gain a go-to creative and marketing ally that can help both established voices and a new generation of artists and filmmakers reach new heights.
- Get facts, resources and contacts they need to tell authentic disability stories in a way that will win audiences over and advance dignity for all.
- Create both entertaining content for and with people with disabilities and assist in improving the financial bottom line of networks.
- Find the diverse talent they need – both in front of and behind the camera – to reflect the fact that 56 million people in the United States and one-billion people worldwide live with disabilities.
- Understand disability etiquette and ensure that disability is not viewed through the “pity” lens.
- Update lexicons to ensure that scripts are culturally sensitive to the one-in-five people with disabilities and the people who love them.
- Free and impactful assistance with marketing inclusive films and shows that advance the inclusion and opportunities for people with disabilities.
Examples of Best Practices
- Not an ordinary reality show, Born This Way, which recently won an Emmy for being the best reality show on TV today, stars seven diverse young adults with Down syndrome as they deal with issues around employment, independent living, education and romance. By promoting success stories of people with disabilities, Born This Way helps to change negative perceptions of people with disabilities. The third season of Born This Way currently is airing on A&E at 10/9c.
- In scripted television, Speechless is a sitcom centered around a family that happens to include a son with cerebral palsy, J.J. The fact that J.J. is played by Micah Fowler, an actor with cerebral palsy, is important. Actors without disabilities play more than 95 percent of characters with disabilities on television. Speechless recently was renewed for a second season on ABC.
- In film, Finding Dory, a Pixar box office success, stars many characters with disabilities. Dory, the titular character, has short-term memory loss. Nemo has physical disabilities with his little fin and Hank is an octopus that is missing a tentacle. Destiny is visually impaired by her myopia and Bailey has difficulty with echolocation. Disability is not something Dory needs to overcome, but something she needs to learn to live with, accept and work with to accomplish things “in her own Dory way.” In addition to putting a positive spin on Dory’s journey, Finding Dory highlights the importance of community for people with disabilities. Throughout the film, Dory is helped by Hank, Destiny, Bailey and, of course, Nemo and his father Marlin, many who have disabilities themselves.
As RespectAbility continues this work, the Community of Practice will expand so more people with disabilities are seen for the dignity and abilities that they have – and can contribute to their own independence and the community at large.
Want to get involved?
Contact our Communications Director at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.