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RespectAbility Labs for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities – 2022

Headshots of 20 RespectAbility 2022 in-person Entertainment Lab Participants

2022 Los Angeles Cohort

NOTE: This is an archived page from the 2022 Lab. View for the current year’s Lab information and application.

diverse group of summer lab participants with disabilities posing for photo on Walt Disney lot

2019 Summer Lab Alumni visiting The Walt Disney Company Lot in Burbank, California

RespectAbility’s fourth annual innovative Entertainment Lab for entertainment professionals with disabilities is a 6-week Lab for people with experience in development, production and/or post-production, and careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators, and other production roles. This is not a program for actors.

The Entertainment Lab aims to help develop and elevate the talent pipeline of professionals with disabilities working behind-the-scenes in television, film, and streaming, while introducing them to studio executives and other decision makers who will advise Lab Fellows on various aspects of the industry and their craft. Lab alumni currently are working at Netflix, Paramount Pictures, Showtime, Nickelodeon, Disney, and more. 

This year we are excited to offer both an in-person Lab and a virtual version for those who would find an in-person Lab inaccessible. Sessions for both include:

  • Presentations, roundtables, and other workshops with high-level executives and talent from major studios, networks, and production companies
  • Informal networking with your cohort
  • Project workshops and table reads
Summer Lab participants seated around a table listening to a lecture

2019 Summer Lab alumni learning from Jonathan Murray

View previous speakers by viewing past years’ programs on the Entertainment Lab 2021, 2020, and 2019 pages. 

RespectAbility provides ASL interpreters and captioning for all educational and related networking events, and welcomes other accommodations requests. For questions pertaining to the Entertainment Lab, please contact Isabella Vargas at [email protected].

Important Details for Lab Applicants

  • Excellent communication and organizational skills are strongly preferred, and participants should exhibit leadership skills to complete their own projects.
  • A bachelor’s degree is not required as long as applicants have acquired the skills needed for their chosen career path in another way.
  • Commit for 12 sessions over six weeks.
  • The value of this Lab is thousands of dollars. However, there is no cost to apply for or participate in this competitive program.
  • While people at all income levels are encouraged to apply, extra consideration will be given to people on SSI, SNAP, and TANF.
  • Up to 20 candidates will be selected for each Lab.
  • Your application materials will be evaluated by RespectAbility staff members as well as faculty advisors who are experts in each field.

RespectAbility’s Labs are supported in part by:

A+E Networks, Final Draft, The Harnisch Foundation, Murray/Reese Foundation, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Pop Culture Collaborative, Sony Pictures Entertainment, ViacomCBS, The Walt Disney Company

Recipient of The Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award

Entertainment Lab Programmatic Team

head shot of Lauren wearing an orange blazer, smiling and facing the camera color photo Vanni Le smiling headshot in front of a staircase Lesley Hennen smiling headshot
Lauren Appelbaum
SVP, Communications and Entertainment & News Media
Lab Founder & Program Director
Vanni Le
Entertainment Outreach Program Manager
Lesley Hennen
Entertainment Media Associate
Jacquill Moss smiling headshot Isabella Vargas smiling headshot
Jacquill Moss
Entertainment Media Program Coordinator
Isabella Vargas
Entertainment Media & Lab Apprentice

2022 Faculty Advisors

Nasreen Alkhateeb smiling headshot Cheryl Bedford smiling headshot April Caputi smiling headshot
Nasreen Alkhateeb
RespectAbility Senior Production Advisor and 2019 Lab Alum
Cinematographer & Director
Cheryl Bedford
Women of Color Unite
April Caputi
2019 Lab Alumna
Casting Coordinator,
Lucasfilm Animation
Nicole Go smiling headshot Kathy Le Backes headshot Noriko Louison smiling headshot
Nicole Go
Producer and Director, Business Development – Diversity and Inclusion,
Staff Me Up
Kathy Le Backes
Director, Content Advisement – Representation, Inclusion, Strategies & Engagement,
The Walt Disney Studios
Noriko Louison
Sr. Research and Curriculum Manager,
9Story Media Group
Marc Musynzski smiling headshot Sue Obeidi smiling wearing a black shirt in front of a white background Andrew Reid headshot
Marc Muszynski
2019 Lab Alumnus
TV Writer
Sue Obeidi
MPAC Hollywood Bureau
Andrew Reid
RespectAbility Entertainment Media Apprentice and 2020 Lab Alumnus
Leah Romond smiling headshot Diana Theobald smiling headshot Nathan Varni smiling headshot
Leah Romond
RespectAbility Senior Production Advisor and 2019 Lab Alumna
Producer, Best Summer Ever
Diana Theobald
Director, Equity & Inclusion, Content, Warner Bros. Discovery
Nathan Varni
Executive Director of Current Programming, ABC
Brian Walker wearing a suit and tie Delbert Whetter smiling wearing a suit jacket and glasses
Brian Walker
CEO, Picture Motion Campaigns
Delbert Whetter
Lab Co-Founder & RespectAbility Board Vice Chair
COO & Head of Business Affairs, Exodus Film Group

View 2021 Faculty Advisors and Speakers, 2020 Faculty Advisors and Speakers, and 2019 Faculty Advisors and Speakers.

More Background Information

Just 3.1 percent of primetime scripted television characters have disabilities, compared to 25 percent of adults in the U.S. having a disability. Almost all portrayals of people with disabilities are white, despite the fact that disability impacts all. Furthermore, actors without disabilities play the majority of all characters with disabilities.

Entertainment contributes to our values and ideals. What we see and feel impacts how we act. RespectAbility works with entertainment leaders to promote authentic, accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on TV and in film.

Opening the inclusion umbrella is the right thing to do as well as economically smart: The disability market is valued at more than $1 trillion.

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