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Lauren Appelbaum

Los Angeles, Nov. 24 – In March 2018 I was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), now classified as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), which is a form of chronic pain that usually affects an arm or a leg. With just 200,000 people in the U.S. diagnosed with CRPS in the U.S., most people have not heard of CRPS, which is classified as a “rare disease” with no cure. Therefore, the month of November is CRPS Awareness month.

Since acquiring this disability, I have had the privilege of creating pipeline programming for nearly 100 other disabled individuals. During the 2021 RespectAbility Entertainment Lab for Disabled Entertainment Professionals, we were pleased to have award-winning independent film director and editor Jennifer Valdes as one of 30 Lab Fellows. Like me, Valdes is living with CRPS.

“I used to feel that living life with complex regional pain syndrome wasn’t a life worth living,” she said. “I devalued myself as a human. I felt ashamed of my disability. Disclosing it felt like I was revealing a big secret. I felt isolated and alone. Living with a disability is not the life I planned for, but It’s the only one that I have.” [continue reading…]

Los Angeles, Nov. 24 – November is Native American Heritage Month, or as it is commonly referred to, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. It is important to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people, including those who also are members of the disability community.

Alaqua Cox smiling in a photo studio. Alaqua has a prosthetic leg.

Alaqua Cox

Actress Alaqua Cox exemplifies this intersection. Marvel Studios’ latest episodic series Hawkeye premiered November 24 on Disney+, featuring Cox as Maya Lopez, who is the second deaf character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In addition to being deaf and an amputee, Cox is Native American (Menominee and Mohican Nation).

“I believe kids deserve to see inclusivity and accurate representation,” Cox said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “It will make kids with all types of cultures and disabilities feel like our dreams can break free from limitations.”

RespectAbility’s Senior Entertainment Media Associate Tatiana Lee, who is a disabled woman of color with Native American heritage who also is an actress, international model and activist, pursued a career in the entertainment industry because she did not see herself reflected on screen. At RespectAbility, Lee is the lead consultant on various TV and film projects and conducts training for studios and production companies including NBCUniversal, Netflix, and The Walt Disney Company, and assists with RespectAbility’s Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities.

“I went through many struggles of sense of self and identity because I didn’t see myself represented,” Lee said. “You feel like an outcast, a unicorn, but sometimes not always in a good way. I try to embrace the unicorn thing, but other times it feels isolating.” [continue reading…]

Charleston, WV, November 24 – This week, the West Virginia Workforce Development Board met to discuss the status of workforce practices in the Mountain State. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in the workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, RespectAbility’s Chairman. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

There are more than 178,000 working age (18-64) West Virginians living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, 31.1 percent of the working age population of people with disabilities were employed. It is critical that West Virginia’s Workforce Development Board listen to the individuals with disabilities and advocates impacted by these unemployment rates. In order to make the workforce more inclusive, and to find practical ways to make the workforce more accessible for the entire population, RespectAbility collects, summarizes, and publicizes ideas on key workforce solutions. To learn more about RespectAbility’s advocacy work, please visit our Policy website. [continue reading…]

Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 21 – Stacie de Armas, Senior Vice President of Diverse Consumer Insights & Initiatives, DEI Practice at Nielsen has joined the Board of Advisors at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. Since joining Nielsen in 1998, de Armas has held a variety of senior roles at the company and began her current role in July 2020. Nielsen is a global measurement and data analytics company that provides the most complete and trusted view available of consumers and markets worldwide. Together with RespectAbility, de Armas and Nielsen will soon unveil groundbreaking research regarding disability representation in film and more.

“We’re so thankful for both Stacie and Nielsen’s dedication to the disability community and inclusion overall,” says Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility. “For so long, the disability market has been historically overlooked in terms of consumer insights and research. But with experts like Stacie leading the charge, we’re excited to have even more concrete data to support our work in fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities around the world.” [continue reading…]

Indianapolis, IN, November 18 – This week, the Indiana Regional Workforce Development Boards’ Youth Committee met to discuss the status of workforce practices in the Hoosier State. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in the workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, RespectAbility’s Chairman. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

There are more than 464,000 working age (18-64) Hoosiers living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, 39.5 percent of the working age population of people with disabilities were employed. It is critical that  Indiana Regional Workforce Development Boards listen to the individuals with disabilities and advocates impacted by these unemployment rates. In order to make the workforce more inclusive, and to find practical ways to make the workforce more accessible for the entire population, RespectAbility collects, summarizes, and publicizes ideas on key workforce solutions. To learn more about RespectAbility’s advocacy work, please visit our Policy website. [continue reading…]

Survey of 2,321 from Jewish community shows progress from 2018-2021, while identifying areas in need of continued improvement

Full Data from Jewish Respondents Available Online Now

Rockville, Maryland, Nov. 17 – A major new survey of 2,321 Jewish individuals fielded by RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can participate fully in all aspects of community, demonstrates that Jewish communal organizations are making strong progress toward building a more inclusive community for people with physical, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. At the same time, the survey identified substantially higher poverty rates, as well as a strong desire to work, among this highly educated population.

The new study showed that 65 percent of Jewish respondents felt the Jewish community was “better” at “including people with disabilities” compared to five years ago. Only one percent felt the community was doing “worse.”

“More and more Jewish institutions now understand that we are a stronger community when we are welcoming, diverse, and respect one another,” said RespectAbility Founder Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, who is dyslexic, has ADHD and knows what it means to parent a child with multiple disabilities. “However, at the same time, there is a gap where the rubber meets the road as nondisabled Jews feel more has been accomplished in comparison to how Jews with disabilities themselves feel. Indeed, hundreds of Jews with disabilities and their loved ones shared specific and sometimes truly painful examples of when they were unable to participate in Jewish communities due to lack of access and inclusion.” [continue reading…]

Honolulu, HI, November 17 – This week, Hawaii’s Workforce Development Council (WDC) met to discuss the status of workforce practices in the Aloha State. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in the workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, RespectAbility’s Chairman. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

There are more than 62,548 working age (18-64) Hawaiians living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, 38.9 percent of the working age population of people with disabilities were employed. It is critical that the Aloha State’s Workforce Development Council listen to the individuals with disabilities and advocates impacted by these unemployment rates. In order to make the workforce more inclusive, and to find practical ways to make the workforce more accessible for the entire population, RespectAbility collects, summarizes, and publicizes ideas on key workforce solutions. To learn more about RespectAbility’s advocacy work, please visit our Policy website. [continue reading…]

Karen Horne smiling headshot

Karen Horne

Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 14 – Karen Horne, Senior Vice President of Equity and Inclusion at WarnerMedia has joined the board of advisors at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. Bringing more than 20 years of entertainment industry experience, Horne has been recognized as a Diversity and Inclusion pioneer and pipeline builder. This expertise closely aligns with RespectAbility’s mission to strengthen a diverse talent pipeline of people with disabilities through a number of different leadership development programs, such as their Summer Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities, currently in its third year.​

“We’re thrilled to welcome Karen to our board of advisors” says Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility. “Her expertise in entertainment and inclusive talent development is unmatched, and we are excited to continue working together to create programs that will tap even further into the disability community that has historically been excluded from so many areas of the entertainment industry.” [continue reading…]

A veteran with a prosthetic leg walks past a statue with only on leg in front of an American flagWashington, D.C., November 11 – Today marks the annual observation of Veterans’ Day, an annual celebration of the service of all brave people who have served in the United States Armed Forces. First observed in 1919, this American holiday was initially conceived to celebrate those who fought and died in the First World War but later grew to become an occasion celebrating all veterans after the Second World War.

According to the Disability Statistics Compendium, released by Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, there are more than 17 million veterans. Among America’s veterans, more than 1.6 million veterans have a military service-connected disability. There are more than 2 million African American veterans, among whom more than 566,000 have a disability. Of the 1.2 million Hispanic/Latinx veterans, 321,000 have disabilities. Lastly, there are approximately 302,000 Asian American/Pacific Islander veterans and approximately 64,000 have disabilities.

Just as the workforce has changed in recent decades to include more equal opportunities, women have been serving their country in increasing numbers, especially in the post-9/11 era. Out of the 1.6 million female veterans in America today, over 357,000 have disabilities. [continue reading…]

Kurt Yaeger and Tongayi Chirisa speak with each other in a hallway

Kurt Yaeger and Tongayi Chirisa in a scene from Another Life on Netflix

November 11, Los Angeles, CA – American actor, director and professional athlete Kurt Yaeger, who also happens to be a below-the-knee amputee, understands the importance of authentic casting and hiring disabled people within film & TV so we can continue the path of diversity and inclusion on the big screen.

Yaeger is known for his recurring role as ‘Greg the Peg’ on the FX crime drama series, Sons of Anarchy, as well as numerous other roles in popular TV shows such as NCIS: New Orleans, The Good Doctor, L.A.’s Finest, The Village and more. Currently, Yaeger portrays Dillon Conner in the futuristic sci-fi series Another Life, which recently launched its second season on Netflix.

Yaeger’s character, Dillon Conner, is not defined by his disability. Yet he is a very realistic depiction of a disabled individual – “portrayed as sexually attractive, fully capable and not hindered by his disability in any way.” [continue reading…]

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