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Debbie Fink smiling in front of a buildingRockville, Maryland, June 28 – Known for her multidisciplinary approach and exemplary soft and hard skills, Debbie Fink is the Director of Community Outreach and Impact for RespectAbility. Maximizing this approach and dual skillset, she efficiently and effectively crafts trainings, programs and events that elevate purpose, deepen understanding, broaden community and quantify impact.

What does that mean, and how does she do it? A keen observer of all people around her, Fink elicits personal stories, cultivates connectivity and garners buy-in. Fink then identifies common threads among individuals and groups, pinpoints gaps and weaves together programming that promotes powerful change – change that is woven with earned trust, mutual respect and common goals.

After any such event, Fink assesses impact through ongoing surveys, data collection and analysis. At RespectAbility, Fink’s trainings, programs and events advance opportunities and fight stigmas for—and with—people with disabilities. Several best practices have emerged from her diligent work. [continue reading…]

Mansfield’s Character Zuzu Truly Feels the Beat in Netflix’s New Film

Shaylee Mansfield headshot

Shaylee Mansfield

Los Angeles, California, June 25 – At just 11 years of age, actress Shaylee Mansfield is quickly becoming a household name and role model for all children.

“I’m grateful to have a platform that will give not only Deaf children, but all children to freely speak up, to fight for what they want, and to be fully themselves even if it is not ‘popular,’” Mansfield said in an interview with RespectAbility.

Mansfield draws her inspiration from Daisy Ridley, Gal Gadot and Lauren Ridloff, noting that she is determined to be the next Deaf superhero after Ridloff, who will be appearing in the upcoming Marvel film The Eternals. [continue reading…]

Speakers available to train organizations on how to be inclusive of the one-in-five people with disabilities

New York City, June 23 – At a time when people across America are learning about equity and justice, RespectAbility is proud to announce a brand-new National Disability Speakers Bureau: Women’s Division. These fantastic speakers are ready to offer “Disability 101” training in how to welcome, respect, and include diverse people with disabilities.

RespectAbility’s new Speakers Bureau includes 11 remarkable women with disabilities who live in New York City, who were chosen and trained to advance disability, diversity, equity and inclusion. Their diverse backgrounds, disabilities and professions have culminated in a vibrant speakers bureau. Each speaker has successfully completed RespectAbility’s intensive, seven-month training program. Following their graduation this week of the second phase of this multi-year program, they are available to speak virtually anywhere. [continue reading…]

Los Angeles, California, June 22, 2020 – Delivering a closing keynote during the first session of the RespectAbility Lab for Entertainment Professionals the 30 participants and five-member programmatic team, Cheryl Bedford shared her tips on how to turn fear into action.

“We fight together, and we fight all -isms, and at the very same moment in time,” Bedford said, sharing that while the nonprofit she founded, Women of Color Unite, focuses on the inclusion and advancement of women of color that they “leave no marginalized groups behind.” [continue reading…]

Washington, D.C., June 21 – Throughout National LGBTQ+ Pride Month (June), the LGBTQ+ community has been reflecting on the ongoing struggle to secure, protect and expand their rights. The LGBTQ+ community and the disability community intersect in significant ways. According to a study published in 2012, fully 36 percent of women in the LGBTQ+ community and 30 percent of men in the community also self-identify as persons with disabilities. Digging deeper shows that 26 percent of gay men, 40 of bisexual men disclosed having a disability as did 36 percent of lesbians and 36 percent of bisexual women.

Identifying the full scope of the LGTBQ+ community remains a significant challenge due to continuing fears about disclosure and stigmas that remains a painful fact of life in many parts of the United States and the world. Estimates prepared in 2018 by Gallup put the total number of LGBTQIA Americans at approximately 11 million individuals. Further work done in 2019 by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and the Center for American Progress estimated that nearly 5 million LGBTQ+ people live with some form of disabilities. [continue reading…]

headshot of Ben Spangenberg

Ben Spangenberg

Rockville, Maryland, June 20 – When Ben Spangenberg was young, he saw a news article reporting that people like him – who used wheelchairs – had few employment opportunities. He set out to prove them wrong for himself and to create a better future for others with disabilities. For the last 13 years, he has worked professionally on employment for people with disabilities.

“I want young people in the disability community to know they are loved and appreciated for their unique dreams, talents, and skills,” Spangenberg said. “Our community needs the opportunity to share and be recognized for our talents.” [continue reading…]

Los Angeles, California, June 19, 2020 – “Your experience as a person with a disability adds value to your team,” deaf film executive Delbert Whetter told the 30 participants and five-member programmatic team of RespectAbility’s Summer Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities.

Whetter, a RespectAbility board member, has been the head of business affairs for digital, wireless and entertainment providers. He has been involved in projects such as MGM’s Igor (2008), Magnolia Picture’s Hero of Color City (2014), and Cinedigm’s Bunyan and Babe (2017). Currently, he is executive producing the upcoming animated feature film, Pierre the Pigeon-Hawk and producing the live-action narrative feature, Flash Before the Bang based on the true story of an all-deaf track team from a deaf school that won the state championship. Prior to his coming to work in the film industry, he earned a law degree from George Washington University Law School and an MBA from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business. [continue reading…]

Logos for Roddenberry foundation and unreasonable conversation.Los Angeles, California, June 18 – Announced on the first day of RespectAbility’s Summer Lab, RespectAbility’s Vice President of Communications Lauren Appelbaum was announced as a recipient of The Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award in partnership with Propper Daley’s A Day of Unreasonable Conversation for this innovative Lab program.

“Our goal is to support creators who are fighting to break down barriers to access and representation, and to erase limits on the type of stories we tell, who gets to tell them, and how,” explained Greg Propper, President of Propper Daley and Founder of A Day of Unreasonable Conversation. [continue reading…]

Los Angeles, California, June 17, 2020 – John Lawson is a man who wears quite a few hats: he is an award-winning writer and director, he has acted in notable shows such as Law and Order: SVU, American Horror Story: Freakshow and Switched At Birth, and is a certified pilot and scuba instructor. And those are just a few of his many accomplishments.

Speaking to the 30 participants and five-member programmatic team of RespectAbility’s Summer Lab, Lawson began his talk with the story of being forced to accept his disability. He lost both of his hands in an electrical accident that occurred while he was working. Even though he lost what most of us consider vital body parts, Lawson referred to two quotes that helped him process an inevitable new chapter of his life: [continue reading…]

Whitney Davis in a zoom window with an ASL interpreter in another window.Los Angeles, California, June 16, 2020 – The 2020 RespectAbility Summer Lab kicked off with an informative keynote on navigating film industry politics and virtual networking tips with activist Whitney Davis. Davis’ talk emphasized themes of self-worth, career-growth and deeply rooted issues within big-name corporations. She offered tips from her own experience growing from a Page to becoming an executive for CBS.

“Something I wish I’d known early in my career is: don’t be afraid to use your voice,” Davis told the 30 participants and five-member programmatic team of the Lab. “Using one’s voice and knowing that you bring something special into every room that you walk into—which has nothing to do with the outward appearance or ability or disability—but just who you are as a person, and being confident in. That is all the executive presence you need.” [continue reading…]

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Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.


HQ: 11333 Woodglen Drive, #102, Rockville, MD 20852
West Coast: 350 S Bixel Street
Los Angeles CA 90017

Office Number: 202-517-6272


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