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Rockville, Maryland, Sept. 18 – Workforce development for people with disabilities has not only been Jaime Pacheco-Orozco’s job for the past twenty years but also his passion. The Assistant Executive Director of the City of Los Angeles Department of Disability, Pacheco-Orozco manages the day-to-day operations of the department and oversees the budgetary, legislative and strategic planning processes. Put simply, however, his job is to ensure that people with disabilities are afforded equal access to and opportunity for fully integrated employment and education.

Pacheco-Orozco earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Yale University, and serves as the Chair of the Yale Alumni Schools Committee for the Central Los Angeles area. As a person with disabilities himself, he understands well the misconceptions and stereotypes held by society towards this population: he was born with a congenital hip disorder (which required hospitalization and leg braces to adjust), has a history of stuttering, and developed epilepsy as a result of a traumatic brain injury. [continue reading…]

Los Angeles, California, Sept. 18 – A new episode of Disney Channel’s Emmy Award-nominated series Big City Greens is breaking barriers when it comes to ensuring authentic deaf representation. In the “Quiet Please” episode, the Green family visits the city library hoping to find a book that will spark Cricket’s interest in reading, but they quickly run afoul of a strict, eerie librarian. Determined to keep the library a quiet place, she threatens to throw them out if they make any sound. Cricket’s sister Tilly notices two deaf library patrons communicating via ASL, giving her the idea that her family can communicate in the same way. While Tilly is the only family member to know ASL, they use that as inspiration to communicate through charades-like hand gestures. [continue reading…]

With 25 years of experience at The Coca-Cola Company, Vincenzo Piscopo knows the importance of shaping workplace inclusion through philanthropic involvement. As the Community and Stakeholder Relations Director for Coca-Cola, Piscopo manages company relationships with disability, veteran and Hispanic organizations and advocates for these communities internally.

Born and raised in Venezuela, he received a bachelor’s degree in Economics, an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University and a master’s in Creativity from Buffalo State University. In his tenure at The Coca-Cola Company, he has served in several different areas of the organization: Finance, IT, Marketing and Innovation. [continue reading…]

Los Angeles, California, Sept. 17 – A new film recently premiered on Netflix that is very intentional about meaningful representation and authentic casting. All Together Now features Anthony Jacques, who is on the Autism spectrum and Gerald Isaac Waters, who uses a wheelchair. Both Jacques and Waters’ characters are multi-dimensional and not defined by their disabilities.

“As an actor with a disability, we get a lot of roles where the role itself is involved with the disability,” said Waters, who plays Chad, and uses a wheelchair on screen and in real life for mobility. “To have one come by where he just so happened to be in the chair, I thought that was really great. It’s really important to see we can do any role and it doesn’t have to be completely circled around our disability.”

Waters’ character Chad is part of the lead character Amber Appleton (Auli’i Cravalho)’s group of friends. Cravalho herself has publicly talked about seeing mental health professionals. The film also portrays the topics of mental health, alcoholism and experiencing homelessness, as Amber and her mother find themselves living in a school bus. Nearly 4.2 million youths and young adults experience homelessness each year but it is not often portrayed in family and teen content. [continue reading…]

Taken from RespectAbility’s “Opening Your Virtual Gates” High Holiday Toolkit

Providing Accessibility Before the Event: On your organization’s sign-up form, ask registrants if they need any accommodations to effectively participate in the event. Additionally, provide a name, Email, and phone number for someone who can assist people with accommodation requests.

Providing Documents to Attendees Prior to the Event: If you are using any documents or a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation for your online event, distribute it to your attendees in advance. This includes online Siddurim or Machzorim, or source sheets for sermons or discussions. [continue reading…]

Washington, D.C., Sept. 14 – With 50 days left until Election Day and with many voters deciding to vote early, candidates across the political spectrum are reaching out to a previously ignored block of voters: people with disabilities.

Polling conducted earlier this year showed that more than half of the electorate in the battleground (59 percent) self-identifies as having a disability (16 percent), having a family member with a disability (32 percent) or having a close friend with a disability (11 percent).

According to Rutgers University, 14.3 million citizens with disabilities voted in 2018. Those voters will be crucial as both Democrats and Republicans vie for votes this year. In response to this opportunity, campaigns and candidates across the country are going on the record about their policies and plans to help Americans with disabilities. Those plans are being documented online by RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

RespectAbility is a non-partisan group and have been thorough in reaching out to Democratic and Republican candidates equally. The team at RespectAbility is still actively soliciting responses to their questionnaire from campaigns that have not yet done so.

RespectAbility has been actively engaging with campaigns to both educate them about disability issues and to get campaigns to complete RespectAbility’s 2020 Disability Voter Questionnaire.  You can find full, detailed converge online at https://therespectabilityreport.org. [continue reading…]

Initiative Highlights Importance of Behind the Camera and Development of Talent Pipeline

RespectAbility congratulates The Academy for their diversity and inclusion initiative. This has the potential to bring about some real change in the entertainment industry. We are especially pleased to see people with disabilities included, as too often disability is not included in diversity conversations.

It is important, however, to ensure that the narrative is good. It’s not enough to just be included – we have to be included in an authentic way. And by having one its categories focus on behind the camera roles, this initiative has an opportunity to prevent this – by truly hiring people with disabilities behind the camera in an inclusive way. This presents a huge opportunity to tell diverse, complex stories of the disability experience, and avoid falling into the trap of inspiration porn, which assumes that anyone with a disability must have it so much worse, and uses people with disabilities to make nondisabled people feel good about themselves or to make them do something, like exercise.
[continue reading…]

Authentic Portrayal of Deaf Chimpanzee Sibling Throughout Entire Series


Los Angeles, California, Sept. 8 – The lovable foursome Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the Hippo return to our screens once again in Madagascar: A Little Wild, this time as kids residing in their rescue habitat at the Central Park Zoo. Two additional characters in this series, Dave and Pickles, however, deserve attention. Chimpanzee siblings Dave and Pickles are breaking barriers and are part of a movement changing the landscape of disability representation in children’s television and streaming content. [continue reading…]

There are more than 22 million working-age people with disabilities in America, and today fewer than 1 in 3 has a job. Learn from top experts who are enabling employers to thrive by bringing in the talents of people with disabilities. 

Four people in Zoom boxesWashington, D.C. Sept. 6 – This Labor Day, it is important to look beyond the headlines and the current economic crisis, and see where there is hope for the future. Yes, people with disabilities have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, across the country, there are professionals in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors dedicated to finding solutions and making the future of work better for the 22 million working-age Americans living with a disability.

Some of those leaders spoke earlier this summer during RespectAbility’s ADA30 virtual summit. On Thursday, July 30, leaders from across the economic and political spectrum gathered to discuss strategies, emerging practices and advancing inclusion for workers with disabilities.

This Labor Day, the RespectAbility invites you to learn from this insightful commentary and conversation brought forward by those leaders. The conversation that RespectAbility hosted that day reflects critical lessons that employers, large or small, as well as people with disabilities need to learn. With the annual celebration of Labor Day, now is a good chance for decision-makers to reflect on what advancing opportunities for people with disabilities really means.  [continue reading…]

animated female character seated in a wheelchair next to a horseLos Angeles, California, Sept. 3 – With one-in-five people having a disability in the U.S. today, the lack of representation – just 3.1 percent on screen and even less in children’s television (less than one percent) – means that millions of people are unable to see themselves in media today. DreamWorks Animation and voice actress Cassidy Huff, who has Conradi-Hunermann syndrome, is helping to change this statistic.

“The reality is, the disability community is facing extreme underrepresentation in this industry and it’s time to change that,” Huff said in an interview with RespectAbility. “In order for disability to be normalized in society, we have to start by introducing it to the youngest ones in this generation and letting them ask questions!”

Spirit Riding Free: Riding Academy’s Season 2 premiere introduces a new character who uses a wheelchair and voiced by Huff, a part-time wheelchair user. While Huff has a variety of disabilities, she does not want to be defined by them.

“I’d like to just be an actress without a label,” she said. “I want to be able to work in an industry where disability isn’t the only thing people see about me or the characters I portray.”

animated female characters racing on their horses - including one who has a strap keeping her inThis animated series features Lucky and her horse Spirit while she embarks on adventures with her friends while living and learning at the prestigious Palomino Bluffs Riding Academy. In the Season 2 premiere, Lucky gets a run for her money when she meets a new addition to the academy: Eleanor, a horseback rider who uses a wheelchair. I had the pleasure of talking with Huff, the actress behind the voice of Eleanor, about playing this role.

[continue reading…]

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