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Ollie Cantos smiling in front of an American flag

Ollie Cantos

Last week, I was privileged to have been elected the fourth Chairman of the Board of Directors of RespectAbility, a national non-profit non-partisan organization whose mission is to fight stigmas and advance opportunities so people with all types of disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Thirty-one years ago, the Nation and the world witnessed a historic moment as President George H. W. Bush signed the landmark American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. Resulting from years of advocacy by and for people with all types of disabilities and the organizations that represented them, the ADA marked the culmination of a bipartisan effort that united a number of stakeholders, both large and small, from all across the country. Almost immediately, the walls of discrimination began to come down within the areas of employment; state and local government programs, services, and activities; places of public accommodation; transportation; and telecommunications. [continue reading…]

National Council On Disability sealWashington, D.C., August 3 – RespectAbility recently submitted comments to the National Council on Disability (NCD) discussing ways to improve our education system and expand opportunities in the entertainment industry for people with disabilities.

In the comments, RespectAbility recognizes the gaps in our education system which have been widened by the pandemic. RespectAbility called for a specific focus on black, indigenous and students of color with disabilities, who disproportionally face greater challenges in receiving an education. Additionally, RespectAbility proposed the addition of a 13th year in secondary education to provide a fluid transition for students before entering the workforce. [continue reading…]

Rockville, MD, August 3 – While CDC data shows that one in four adults have a disability, a report from the Council on Foundations showed that less than one percent of full-time staff at foundations are people with disabilities. Sadly, foundations are missing the lived experience of people who know the challenges and talents of people with disabilities. Thus, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is supporting RespectAbility’s efforts to enable philanthropy to benefit from the energy, skills, and insights of talented people with disabilities.

The MacArthur Foundation is granting funds for RespectAbility to expand their National Leadership Program to include a diverse talent-pipeline of people with disabilities that will work directly in philanthropy. Participants (Fellows) in this “earn while you learn” program will gain skills and experience while working alongside RespectAbility for the first part of the grant period. They will then transition into a role with a host philanthropic partner in a foundation or philanthropy serving organization (PSO). [continue reading…]

April Caputi smiling headshot

April Caputi

Los Angeles, CA, July 28 – On the first of two days led by the Walt Disney Company for RespectAbility’s 2021 Summer Lab, participants had the opportunity to speak with 2019 Lab alumna April Caputi about her career journey since graduating from the Lab. Caputi, who previously temped as a Talent Casting Coordinator for Disneyland Live Entertainment before becoming a Casting Assistant for AMC Network’s show This Close (which was created, written by, and starred Deaf actors), joined the Disney team as a part of the Executive Incubator Program.

“One thing that attracted me most about the Lab program was that you get face time with executives from all studios and networks,” Caputi said of her experience with RespectAbility’s Entertainment Lab. “It was my dream to work at Disney and I [was] dying to meet executives who [were] looking to hire people with disabilities, and I wanted to connect my goals with theirs.” [continue reading…]

Los Angeles, July 28 – RespectAbility’s 2021 Summer Lab recently discussed the development and content selection process with a panel of creative experts who are currently taking the film and TV industry by storm. This panel included Rishi Rajani, President of Film and Television at the Los Angeles based development and production company Hillman Grad Productions, as well as Naomi Funabashi, SVP of Film and Television at Hillman Grad.

Rishi Rajani headshot

Rishi Rajani

Helmed by industry powerhouse Lena Waithe, Hillman Grad Productions is shaking up Hollywood, the studio system and everything in between with their captivating stories and bodies of work. Hillman Grad is known for groundbreakingfilms like Queen & Slim, which won various awards including but not limited to The African American Film Critics Association Impact Award in 2019 and a BET Award in 2020 for Best Movie. Hillman Grad also is engaging audiences on the television screen, with shows like The Chi on Showtime, Boomerang on BET, Twenties also on BET, Them:Covenant on Amazon Prime, and You Ain’t Got These on Quibi. [continue reading…]

Ollie Cantos is First Member of Disabled #AAPI Community to Chair National Disability Group

Los Angeles, CA, July 27 – RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community, has elected Ollie Cantos as its chair. He previously served as Vice Chair.

Cantos, a blind civil rights attorney who was ABC News Person of the Week, has been active in the civil rights arena since 1990. With past leadership roles at the Disability Rights Legal Center, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Justice Department’s Office of the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, and the White House, he currently is Special Assistant in the Office of the Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

Ollie Cantos smiling in front of an American flag

Ollie Cantos

Cantos adopted Colombia-born triplets – Leo, Nick, and Steven – all of whom have become distinguished Eagle Scoutssurvived COVID-19 together, and are blind as well. Cantos is the first disabled person from the Asian American Pacific Islander community to chair a national disability group. A “nothing about us without us” organization, the majority of RespectAbility’s team has disabilities. The majority of its board is also from BIPOC communities.

Cantos took the helm as Hon. Steve Bartlett’s term came to an extremely successful close. During Bartlett’s tenure, RespectAbility expanded dramatically, impacting public policy on workforce and COVID-19 related issues; consulted on 200+ entertainment media productions; and trained dozens of disabled people for leadership. When he previously served in Congress, Bartlett was a lead co-author of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is celebrating its 31st anniversary.

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Three panelists and ASL interpreter on a zoom meeting together smilingLos Angeles, July 22 – When starting out a career in the entertainment industry, many creators find themselves needing to learn how to protect their intellectual property and navigate various contracts. That is where entertainment lawyers often play a role. Entertainment law is often the unsung hero that makes it possible for a script to make it on screen without any hiccups.

As the RespectAbility Lab for Entertainment Professionals continues to expand its teaching and mentoring opportunities, additional sessions are added to ensure all participants are fully prepared to continue advancing their career in the entertainment industry. As such, RespectAbility Board Member Delbert Whetter sat down with Anita Surendran and Zachary Stein of Granderson Des Rochers LLP to discuss one of the most daunting aspects of filmmaking. [continue reading…]

Jim Sinocchi sitting with a service dog in front of a window with skyscrapers behind him.

Jim Sinocchi

Washington, D.C., July 22 – July 2021 marks the 31st anniversary of when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. On Wednesday, July 28, 2021, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, Jim Sinocchi, the Head of Disability Inclusion at JPMorgan Chase, will host a special online conversation to help mark the anniversary and to discuss how to substantively advance disability inclusion, hiring and accommodations in the workplace. Over a long private sector career, Sinocchi has proved himself to be a true thought leader on practical strategies for expanding job opportunities for thousands of people with disabilities and a role model as a businessperson with a physical disability. [continue reading…]

RespectAbility Testimony for NIST National Institute of Standards and Technology US Department of CommerceWashington, D.C., July 19 – Last week, RespectAbility submitted comments to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Request for Information (RFI) regarding voting access for voters with disabilities.

This RFI comes after President Biden signed an Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting in March of this year. Within the Executive Order, President Biden called on the NIST, along with the Department of Justice, the Election Assistance Commission and other relevant agencies to “analyze barriers to private and independent voting for people with disabilities, including access to voter registration, voting technology, voting by mail, polling locations, and poll worker training.” This is a critical step towards understanding how to improve access for the 38 million eligible voters with disabilities in America who look to cast their ballots in future elections. [continue reading…]

Screenshot of panel discussion with five speakers and an ASL interpreter on Zoom.Los Angeles, CA, July 15 – “We’re not necessarily looking for a culture fit, but a culture add,” Rebecca Martinez, a recruiter from ViacomCBS, told 30 participants in RespectAbility’s Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities. “What voices are not represented within the department? So, it’s not about fitting in. It’s what value do you bring? What does your unique set of skills and experience bring to the organization?”

As part of Week Three of the Lab, talent acquisition recruiters from various studios visited the Lab to share insider tips and tricks of breaking into the corporate entertainment world. [continue reading…]

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