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Audio Description Ensures Equal Access for Blind Viewers, While Closed Captioning Assists Viewers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

An award statue next to the icon for audio descriptionHollywood, CA, April 25 – This year’s Oscars ceremony will be the most accessible for viewers yet. In a broadcast first, live audio description will be available for the live telecast nationwide. Google is sponsoring both this year’s closed-captioning and audio description. The addition of audio description, which is audio-narrated descriptions of a program’s key visual elements, ensures that viewers who are blind and low-vision will be able to take in all the action occurring on the screen and provide a much richer experience as they listen to the more traditional aspects of the show from the presenters, winners and performances. Per a press release from ABC, the closed captioning will be provided by VITAC, and the audio description will be provided by VITAC and Audio Eyes. [continue reading…]

Headshot of Ian Cherutich smiling in front of trees and bushes.

Ian Cherutich

Ian Cherutich only joined RespectAbility’s Staff in October 2020. But in just a few months, he has already helped expand RespectAbility’s capacity to build partnerships with foundations and other nonprofits, enabling our national footprint to grow in size and scope.

“Although I have been with the organization for less than a year, it has already been a very educational experience,” said Cherutich. “RespectAbility’s development department tackles each opportunity for funding in a thoughtful way and includes different staff members’ perspectives to inform our approaches.  Having met with advocates of our work in the nonprofit and philanthropic spaces, I can see that the reputation we’ve built will continue to pay dividends as we push for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all spheres of life.” [continue reading…]

Site showcases RespectAbility’s expanding network of consultants, as their work in the space of disability representation in film and TV also continues to grow

Individual headshots of 27 people who are on RespectAbility's consulting team. RespectAbility logo. Text: Entertainment Media Consulting TeamLos Angeles, April 22 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit focused on fighting stigmas of people with disabilities in media and advocating for more authentic representation, is proud to announce the launch of their Entertainment Media Consulting Team website. The site currently features 27 consultants, although the number continues to expand as the consultation requests to RespectAbility from studios, production companies and independent filmmakers continue to roll in. [continue reading…]

Los Angeles, April 22 – Being original is never easy. Whether it’s trying to find new life in the seven original stories or creating another hero with 1000 faces, finding something new and interesting in storytelling is the challenge every writer faces on a daily basis. As writers, we hope to subvert expectations and give our audiences new experiences with familiar undertones.

It’s even harder to find something new in genre work that defines itself by its tropes. And if there’s one genre everyone knows well, it is zombie horror films. They vary from piece to piece, but overall, when you sit down to watch a zombie movie, there are things you expect to see. It is hard to break free from those expectations and create something original.

Poster for Dead End DriveWhat makes the short film Dead End Drive – directed by Alexander Yellen and written by Tobias Forrest – so impressive is its originality. As a person with a spinal cord injury, Forestt thought to himself, “How can I take the zombie apocalypse, disability, Hansel and Gretel, and a really bad joke and put them all together?” Thus born, Dead End Drive, a film that walks the line of familiar while providing a new perspective on the zombie genre. [continue reading…]

Leah Romond smiling headshot in front of yellow flowers and bushes

Leah Romond. Photo by Liz Bretz

Los Angeles, CA, April 15 – Since its premiere at SXSW 2021, the feature film Best Summer Ever has been making waves in the entertainment industry for its authentic representation and inclusion of people with disabilities both in front of and behind the camera, all wrapped up in an energetic and joy-filled musical. RespectAbility recently had the chance to interview one of the film’s producers, Leah Romond, who is also a current Senior Production Advisor at RespectAbility. Romond speaks openly about her experiences with traumatic brain injury, pivoting from law to producing in entertainment, and working at RespectAbility.

In 2012 Romond had mononucleosis, which turned into viral encephalitis that resulted in a brain injury due to brain inflammation. She explained her experience as living with one brain for part of her life and after the injury, being given a completely different brain. Before the injury, “my brain was like a super computer, very detail oriented. As an attorney, I had to keep a lot of facts in my brain and be able to recall them at a moment’s notice,” Romond said. [continue reading…]

Shannon DeVido smiling headshot

Shannon DeVido

Los Angeles, CA, April 14 – Shannon DeVido, a multi-hyphenated talent, is an actress, comedian and writer. Her body of work spans several mediums, but the connective tissue coalescing her diverse pursuits is her wicked, introspective sense of humor. Most recently, DeVido showcases her wide range of talents with a starring role in the new feature film, Best Summer Ever—a musical with a majority of talent with disabilities both in front of and behind the camera.

Hailing from Philadelphia, DeVido was born with spinal muscular atrophy. Disappointed by her prospects of becoming a famous athlete, DeVido found theatre at an early age, introducing her to the world of performance and entertainment. [continue reading…]

RespectAbility’s testimony suggests that the NEA can dramatically strengthen their work by including more people with disabilities and ensuring that all grantees’ work is fully accessible to people with disabilities

Los Angeles, CA, April 14 – As the conversations around diversity and inclusion continue to circulate throughout the entertainment industry, RespectAbility is urging the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to make a bigger effort toward including more people with disabilities in their programs, as well as ensuring that all grantees’ work will be full accessible to people with disabilities.

“With a relatively small amount of additional work, the NEA could make a much larger difference in our nation on behalf of the 61 million people with disabilities,” said Lauren Appelbaum, Vice President of Communications at RespectAbility. “What we see and hear in the arts and entertainment media impacts our thoughts and feelings. Positive, accurate representation could remove stigmas that have long held people with disabilities back.” [continue reading…]

One year into COVID-19 and amidst a most dire mental health crisis, RespectAbility and nearly 200 organizations team up to plan inaugural ‘Mental Health Action Day’ on May 20

Learn more at www.MentalHealthActionDay.org

5.20 Mental Health Action Day Founding partner. MentalHealthActionDay.orgWashington, D.C., April 13 – RespectAbility, in partnership with 193 leading brands, nonprofits and cultural leaders including MTV Entertainment Group, today announced the first-ever Mental Health Action Day, to be held on Thursday, May 20 during Mental Health Awareness Month.

Over the past two decades, suicide rates have risen, particularly among young adults. And the COVID pandemic has accelerated the already dire crisis, giving way to what many mental health professionals have called the “second pandemic.” [continue reading…]

Proposed Civil Rights Bill prohibits discrimination and advances equality for millions of Americans.

an LGBTQ+ Pride flag with black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple stripesWashington, D.C., April 12– On February 25, the Equality Act was passed by the House of Representatives. The Act includes a major overhaul of civil rights protections for many Americans, including millions of people with disabilities. Now, it waits for further action by the United States Senate.

The Equality Act specifically identifies sex, gender and sexual orientation as prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation. As a result, discrimination in areas such as public accommodations and facilities, the criminal justice system, federal funding, employment, housing, credit and education would be prohibited on the basis of sex, gender, or sexual orientation. This would be a major change and significant expansion of civil rights. In 2020, the Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County expanded employment protections against discrimination for gay and transgender people. [continue reading…]

Submitted testimony will help inform Congressional efforts to rebuild the economy and get workers with disabilities back to work.

Washington, D.C., April 7 – Recently, the United States Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee invited subject matter experts, self-advocates, community members and their constituents to virtually provide ideas and insights about rebuilding the economy in a post-COVID world.

In response, the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbiltiy weighed in with their perspective on how to advance new opportunities for workers with disabilities and close crucial gaps in outcomes for people from marginalized communities. [continue reading…]

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