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Los Angeles, January 21 – As the entertainment industry continues to intentionally include creatives with disabilities, The Television Academy is playing a part in educating their members. Through the Interactive Media Peer Group, Academy members discussed the importance of and the impact that disability in media has in molding public perceptions of the disability identity.

Moderated by Eileen Grubba, Filmmaker, Actress, and Disability Inclusion Advocate, the panel attracted “creatives, producers and technologists” at the forefront of establishing a more inclusive world, whether it be behind or in front of the camera or with technology to aid and assist people with disabilities. During the conversation, several advocates addressed the challenges facing people with disabilities in an inaccessible environment, along with trends and technologies ushering in a new era of unseen inclusion. [continue reading…]

As representation grows, disability still widely underrepresented in comparison to U.S. public with disabilities

Los Angeles, Jan. 14 – A new report by GLAAD shows a slight uptick in the percentage of series regular characters with a disability on broadcast scripted series to 3.5 percent for the 2020-2021 season, up from 3.1 percent. This represents a 12.9 percent increase. However, while the percentage showed improvement, the number of characters (27) remained the same from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021.

While increased representation should be celebrated, it also is important to note that, as stated in the GLAAD report, “this number continues to severely underrepresent the actual U.S. population living with disabilities,” as more than twenty percent of people in the U.S. have a disability. [continue reading…]

Join RespectAbility on Sundance’s Digital Main Street for Conversations on Accessible Filmmaking, Audio Description, Producing Deaf Content, and the Importance of Mentorships

Additional panelists added Friday, January 22, 2021

Los Angeles, Jan. 14, 2021 – The disability advocacy organization RespectAbility announces The Accessibility and Inclusion Lab – a virtual lineup of Sundance Film Festival events taking place on a digital Main Street.

As an official organization of the Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative since 2018, RespectAbility works with the Institute year-round to ensure disability and accessibility awareness, equity and inclusion. Led by diverse people with disabilities, RespectAbility’s Hollywood Team partners with studios and writers’ rooms to create equitable and accessible opportunities to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the overall story-telling process. These initiatives increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people on screen, leading to systemic change in how people view and value people with disabilities.

RespectAbility will be hosting five conversations on various disability-related subjects throughout the festival, two of which are in collaboration with Film Independent, a nonprofit arts organization that champions the independent filmmaker, helps filmmakers make their movies, build an audience for their projects and work to diversify the film industry. [continue reading…]

Ali Stroker as Detective Allison Mulaney in a scene from Blue Bloods on CBS

Ali Stroker as Detective Allison Mulaney

Los Angeles, Jan. 14 – If you had told me that CBS’ decade-long cop show, Blue Bloods, would tackle the issue of disability employment, I would have assumed you were from a parallel universe, but here we are.

In the episode properly titled “Redemption,” Blue Bloods introduces Detective Allison Mulaney, a feisty and well decorated detective paralyzed from the waist down due to an injury sustained in the line of duty. Mulaney is portrayed by Tony award-winning Broadway star Ali Stroker. Stroker’s first critical success came in 2019 when she won a Tony for best supporting actress for her role in Oklahoma! making her the first woman in a wheelchair to win a Tony. [continue reading…]

Matt James and Abigail Heringer seated on a couch talking in a scene from the Bachelor

Matt James and Abigail Heringer. Credit: ABC

Los Angeles, Jan. 7 – Monday night saw the season 25 premiere of The Bachelor. This season has been highly anticipated, with the lead Matt James as the first Black Bachelor in the show’s history, and a lack of diversity is a longtime criticism of the show. The show also broke tradition by selecting James as the lead, who has never participated on the show. Leads are usually fan favorites from previous seasons.

James’ naivete and newcomer status comes as a refreshing change as I noticed little things that he did that were different from other leads who were following the direction of producers or what they had seen in past seasons. In another historic move, James chose Abigail Heringer, a deaf contestant, to receive his First Impression rose.

“So, there’s something a little bit different about me,” Heringer said to James when they first met. “And that is I’m deaf. So, I’m going to be reading your lips a lot tonight, but thankfully you have really beautiful lips. So, I’m not complaining!”

“I love that! I’m going to enunciate for you,” James responded. [continue reading…]

What does the ADA mean to you? In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility hosted a week-long summit including a day focused on working with the entertainment industry to advance authentic representation. To cap it off, the conversation focused on the importance of building a disabled industry pipeline for the future.

Hosted by the filmmaker and senior production advisor for RespectAbility Nasreen Alkhateeb, the panel spotlighted RespectAbility’s award-winning Hollywood Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities. [continue reading…]

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the historic Americans with Disabilities Act, RespectAbility’s Lauren Appelbaum sat down with disabled journalists and nondisabled allies who have used their platform to shine the spotlight on stories important to the disability community to discuss the importance of disability representation and coverage in the media.

As it stands, disability inclusion does not get much attention in the media.

“People with disabilities are considered the invisible minority,” said Tim Gray, a senior VP at Variety. “I don’t think journalists are putting up a wall. I think it just doesn’t occur to them. Even now, with all the talk about diversity and inclusion, 90% of that conversation is about racial inclusion. Maybe the other 10% is about gender with women equality.” [continue reading…]

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. The national disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility has been honored to play a part in changing this, including consulting on an array of films and TV shows for a variety of studios and networks. As part of a week-long celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, RespectAbility highlighted examples of best practice in authentic casting and disability representation in Hollywood.

Moderated by actress and model Tatiana Lee, who also serves as RespectAbility’s Hollywood Inclusion Associate, one panel shined the spotlight on young adult entertainment media focusing on Ramy (Hulu) and Everything’s Gonna Be Okay (Freeform).

Shows like these demonstrate Hollywood’s changing tide and push for inclusion of creatives with disabilities, both in front of and behind the camera. As research shows, only 3.1 percent of all speaking or named characters in film were shown to have a disability in 2020. Trends show these numbers will increase, and these talented individuals are at the forefront of this industrial shift. [continue reading…]

On the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, RespectAbility board member and co-founder of Bunim-Murray Productions, Jonathan Murray, hosted a panel of entertainment industry writers, producers, and executives to speak about the experience of the disabled community within the industry. Part one of the four-part “Fighting Stigmas with Hollywood” series, “Respecting the Ability: Ensuring Authentic Representation in the Entertainment Industry,” is about the importance of not only allowing but creating more supportive environments for people in the industry to tell the authentic and diverse stories representing all.

The lack of representation of the disability community in entertainment is vast. While one in five people in the U.S. has a disability, just 3.1 percent of characters on a primetime show have a disability – meaning that millions of people are unable to see themselves represented in media today. The shortage is one reason why RespectAbility is fighting for change; however, a change like this must be embraced from the top and have buy-in at every level. Studio heads, showrunners, producers, and writers must do their part to inflict change on the industry and showcase diverse people and stories. The participants shared why change is happening within the industry, and each has proven to be changemakers in their own right. [continue reading…]

“When you see an object, it seems that you see it as an entire thing first, and only afterwards do its details follow on. But for people with autism, the details jump straight out at us first of all, and then only gradually, detail by detail, does the whole image float up into focus.”

― Naoki Higashida, The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

Los Angeles, CA, Jan. 5 – How do you see the world? Do you enjoy the beautiful small details of a flower or the sweet melodious sound of birds chirping? Do you find the sound of rain calming? What if all those details that we love started to slam into our minds in disruptive and disturbing ways? Would you still love them? For the neurotypical, our brains are designed to block out specific details of our environment for various reasons. But what if we couldn’t? Even still, what if you did always love them but couldn’t verbally express your appreciation? How emotionally taxing would your world be if everything you sensed was amplified and you had no way to express yourself verbally?

[continue reading…]

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