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In honor of March being Women’s History Month, RespectAbility reached out to our Entertainment Lab alumni network and asked them to share their favorite TV shows or movies featuring authentic portrayals of Disabled women, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming individuals. If you’re looking for something new to watch, check out their list of recommendations below – including some projects created by and/or starring various members of our alumni network! [continue reading…]

Headshots of eight women with disabilitiesWashington, D.C., March 26 – As we celebrate Women’s History Month, RespectAbility recognizes the important contributions made by women and people of other marginalized gender identities this month, every month, and throughout the history of the United States.

22 Million Women Live with Disabilities in the U.S.

The Census Bureau estimates that there are, in total, more than 61 million Americans living with some form of disability. It is important to note this includes more than 22 million women in the United States. There unfortunately is a lack of data regarding non-binary people with disabilities, so these statistics only include people who identify as women.

In fact, those who identify as women report higher rates of disability than their male-identifying counterparts. According to the most recent Census Bureau disability data, released by the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, 13.3 percent of women living in the community (not institutionalized) in America had disabilities, compared to 12.8 percent of men in America who reported a disability in 2021.

Despite significant gains across multiple sectors of American society, disabled women still face worse employment outcomes than men with disabilities. Out of approximately 10.8 million working-age women with disabilities, only 39.3 percent had jobs, compared to an employment rate of 42.2 percent for 10.5 million working-age disabled men. [continue reading…]

Faith Strongheart looking through a notebook with another woman in a behind-the-scenes still from her documentarySalt Lake City, March 23 – Faith Strongheart—writer, filmmaker, and 2020 RespectAbility Lab alumna—won the most recent NYWIFT Loreen Arbus Disability Awareness Grant for her deeply personal documentary Faith Brings the Wild. This grant supports a film that amplifies the voices of people with physical or developmental disabilities in the post-production phase. While Strongheart is still actively editing this film with her team, she shared the most recent cut of the film and talked with me about her experience creating it.

Strongheart focuses the camera on herself and her family to create a documentary that examines the dichotomy of growing up as a child during the hippie movement. A time often described as full of love, freedom, and drugs, but for the children, including Strongheart and her siblings, it was also a time full of parental neglect. Strongheart grew up on a farm without running water surrounded by many siblings, her mom, stepfather, and extended family. Through a series of intimate interviews with her family, it becomes clear that while the adults intended to create a magical space for their children to grow up in, they were not adept at parenting. [continue reading…]

Los Angeles, March 16 – During Sunday’s Academy Awards, many firsts were celebrated in terms of diversity and inclusion, including disability representation. Best Picture Everything Everywhere All at Once showcases representation of ADHD, while writer/director Daniel Kwan, who also took home an award for directing, has ADHD himself. Best Live Action Short An Irish Goodbye features James Martin, an actor with Down syndrome. Also of note, RespectAbility Lab Alumna Courtney Wold served as the visual effects production manager for Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, which won Best Animated Feature.

Everything Everywhere All At Once Takes Viewers on a Journey Inside the Multiverses of a Neurodivergent Mind

Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere All at OnceAs widely expected, Everything Everywhere All at Once took home numerous Oscars during this week’s ceremony. A neurodivergent audience member watching Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) may pick up on the fact that she has undiagnosed ADHD. Daniel Kwan, one-half of the writer/director team “Daniels,” confirmed this in various interviews. Kwan set out to write a lead character with undiagnosed ADHD, which he felt would add to the external and internal chaos in the film. Through his research of ADHD traits, Kwan felt a sense of familiarity and ended up getting diagnosed with ADHD himself. Turns out, Kwan was subconsciously pulling from his own lived disability experience. [continue reading…]

Roy Baladi of jobs for humanity presenting a slide about assistive technology at The Point conference.On the last day of February 2023, I joined a roomful of employers, job seekers, and advocates in a conference center in San Francisco all united by one passion – building a workforce that was diverse, inclusive, and welcoming to all. This one-day event, hosted by Roy Baladi of Jobs for Humanity and cosponsored by the California Department of Rehabilitation, was a whirlwind of trainings, hands-on activities, and mentorship all oriented around this one singular goal.

The keynote remarks were delivered by Ken Oliver, Executive Director of An employer himself, Oliver shared his story about rising from solitary confinement in prison where he educated himself in the law enough to realize that his civil rights were being violated, forming the foundation of a case that led to his eventual release. His experience and emergence into the job market later in life taught him the value of persistence and second chances, something that he has made into a career as a leader of the philanthropic arm of a company valued at $4.6 billion.

Throughout the day, Oliver’s charge to us rang in our ears, that many people don’t get a second chance, and that walking in the shoes of those we are committed to supporting is essential to eliminating bias and promoting fair chance. [continue reading…]

Photo of The White House. Text: "President Biden's Budget and the Disability Community"President Biden released his budget last week, and it has tremendous potential to advance the disability community, but only if disabled people are included and remain vigilant.

The budget includes a number of programs which are framed as making the economy more competitive and Americans more secure. The first thing of note is the specific call out of Home and Community-based Services (HCBS). The budget would invest $150 billion over 10 years to improve and expand Medicaid HCBS, to, in the words of the press release, “allow older Americans and individuals with disabilities to remain in their homes and stay active in their communities as well as improve the quality of jobs for home care workers.” This is the time to be strong advocates and partners to ensure not only that this funding becomes law, but that we continue to modernize programs to allow Medicaid recipients to work, to marry, and to fully participate in society.

The other direct mention of disability comes in the President’s educational priorities, where the press release by the White House specifically affirms that “[e]very child with a disability should have access to the high-quality early intervention, special education services, and personnel needed to thrive in school and graduate ready for college or a career.” This statement prefaces an announcement of a proposed $2.1 billion increase in Pre-K through 12 IDEA spending, and almost a billion dollars in early intervention spending. This is a prime opportunity to bring our collective voices to ensuring passage while strengthening special education practices and access throughout the country so that the money leads to the best outcomes. [continue reading…]

logo for the Convention on the rights of person with disabilitiesI recently researched three disability organizations in the countries of Afghanistan, India, and Kenya to find out the differences and similarities between what they and RespectAbility do. Upon exploring them, I realized the unifying thread that was the Convention on Rights for Persons with Disabilities. I believe that the U.S. should immediately ratify the treaty.

Here’s what I learned: [continue reading…]

Data Corner for March 2023

Last month, we shared monthly employment data from the BLS. In this month’s Data Corner, we examine the National Trends In Disability Employment (nTIDE) and their work tracking employment for people with disabilities. We will also explore some educational data that shows some encouraging progress.

Graphs from nTIDE showing changes in labor force participation rate and employment-to-population ratio from February 2022 to February 2023In February 2023, the labor force participation rate for people with disabilities rose to an all-time high of 40.2%, compared to 36.6% in February 2022. This is encouraging as we work towards closing the gap between workers with and without disabilities. Workers without disabilities experienced a smaller uptick in the labor force participation rate, which rose from 76.9% in February 2022 to 77.3% in February 2023.

Likewise, the employment-to-population ratio for people with disabilities rose from 33.1% in February 2022 to 36.9% in February 2023. For those without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio increased from 73.8% to 74.4%. [continue reading…]

The Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act (TCIEA) was introduced in February 2023 in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-VA) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MA). The bill is designed to end the exception to the minimum wage enacted in the 1930s which allows certain employers of people with disabilities to pay wages significantly under the minimum wage, as little as pennies an hour, colloquially known as subminimum wage. We recognize that this would realize one of our main strategic policy goals.

Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 instructed the Department of Labor (DOL) to provide certificates to employers specifically involved in the training of people with disabilities, allowing them an exemption to minimum wage standards. The original purpose of this exemption was to allow workshops for people with disabilities to continue operating through the end of the Great Depression, despite the fact that the federal government had enacted a minimum wage. It has long outlived this purpose, and has in fact created inequitable outcomes, and diverted people with disabilities from the more effective training programs available this century. [continue reading…]

a scene from "All That Jazzy" where Piper and Jazzy talk with Ayanna and Gliderbella.Los Angeles, March 15 – With one-in-five people having a disability in the U.S., 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, a great deal of disability representation on screen is of white males. Disney Junior’s Firebuds, however, explores the diversity missing from disability representation.

Set in a fantastical world where talking vehicles live, work, and play with the humans who drive them, “All That Jazzy” follows the eponymous character (Lauren “Lolo” Spencer), a young Black girl with spina bifida, whose “vroom-mate” is wheelchair car Piper (Sammi Haney). After watching a dance performance starring Ayanna (Tatiana Lee) and Gliderbella (Ali Stroker), Jazzy is inspired to become a lead dancer, too.

Firebuds is such an amazing series to be part of. In order to build inclusivity and normalize the diversity in our world, we have to start by teaching our children,” Spencer said. “Playing a character like ‘Jazzy’ and having characters like ‘Castor’ [a vroom-mate with a cleft hood] who reflect the differences of real people and show the importance of embracing others regardless of those differences, is truly an honor. I’m grateful that I can help spread such an important message.” [continue reading…]

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