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“The greatest role for any public servant is to be involved with the community. Through my volunteering with RespectAbility, I have had this great feeling – I have been able to advance the conversation about how to increase the opportunities for people with disabilities, particularly expanding the role of young leaders in public affairs and service.”

– Gary Norman

Gary Norman smiling wearing a suit and tie in front of a black backgroundGary C. Norman is a dedicated public servant who has donated his time to teach various cohorts of RespectAbility’s Fellows about public service and disability-related topics. Some of these topics include assistive technology, the laws surrounding reasonable accommodation, and what the process can be for gaining meaningful federal employment. Gary connected with RespectAbility in 2015 when he served as a Visiting Fellow for the Robert J. Dole Institute for Politics. He was drawn to the organization because of his interest in non-partisan disability work. [continue reading…]

Washington, D.C., Sept. 26 – When The Real World was launched in 1992, it changed the landscape of television, ushering in the modern era of reality television. Produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, the show continues to focus on a group of people who come from different backgrounds living in a house together, with a different city and a different group of people each season. Twenty-seven years later, the show continues to make an impact. Now streaming for free on Facebook Watch, The Real World has arrived in two new places – Mexico and Bangkok, Thailand. And on both new franchises, disability is represented in an accurate and positive way. [continue reading…]

U.S.-based Exceptional Minds Viewed as a Best Practice for UK Companies to Emulate

Rockville, Maryland, Sept. 25 – A new survey in the United Kingdom found that 12 percent of individuals working in the animation, VFX and post-production industries identify as having at least one disability. While this is below the national average of 17 percent for working-age people with disabilities, this percentage can and should be celebrated as a beginning benchmark for continued advancement.

Nine percent of the animation, VFX and post-production workforce identified as having at least one neurological condition, with dyslexia being the most common (6.5%), followed by ADHD (2.2%), OCD (1.5%) and Autism (1.3%). Two percent of employees identified as having a physical disability and a further one percent identified with both physical and mental conditions. [continue reading…]

Even though disability representation has improved, Hollywood still has work to do for full inclusion – and recognition – of disability. 

Emmy TrophyLos Angeles, Calif., Sept. 22 – As Hollywood celebrates Emmy season last weekend and tonight, it’s important to highlight the several nominees with disabilities. Including authentic disability in the diversity conversation is important to ensure that Hollywood does not leaves out the largest minority in the U.S., as one-in-four American adults identify as having a disability.

Two highly nominated shows that are best practices for disability inclusion – Born This Way and Special – did not win any of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards that were given out last weekend. But Jane Lynch (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), who is deaf in one ear, and CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, whose main character, played by Rachel Bloom, has depression and anxiety, both took home Emmy Awards.

“Inclusion of people with disabilities must be an intentional effort,” said Lauren Appelbaum, who leads RespectAbility’s Hollywood Inclusion efforts as the organization’s Vice President of Communications and author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit.  “Looking forward to tonight’s ceremony, nominees include actors with disabilities. Yet there is very little disability representation in terms of characters and story lines, especially with actors with disabilities playing characters with disabilities. What we see on screen influences how we act in real life. The entertainment industry has an opportunity to help remove the stigmas that currently exist about interacting with individuals with disabilities.” [continue reading…]

Washington, D.C., September 20 – Motivated by their own experiences, five self-advocates shared their stories of perseverance and success at RespectAbility’s Capitol Hill Summit Event, From Washington to Hollywood and Beyond: The Future of Americans with Disabilities.

“The disability rights movement is at its best when people with disabilities are leaning in at tables among decision-makers and leading in every field. That includes having businesses, nonprofits hire people with disabilities,” said Nicole LeBlanc, who moderated the panel entitled “Success Stories of Self-Advocates.” The panel exemplified this idea as it featured professionals from multiple fields with visible and nonvisible disabilities. The panelists shared personal experiences navigating their disabilities in both their personal and professional lives. [continue reading…]

Still from Fort Irwin with Cristian Valle in a military uniform sitting outside leaning against a wall. Christian is a double amputee, and has no legs.

Los Angeles, Sept. 18 – In Fort Irwin, Cristian Valle, a double amputee Purple Heart recipient, attempts to confront his past trauma by acting in a hyperrealistic military simulation.

Valle lost one of his legs when a grenade exploded while he was deployed to Iraq. His other leg was eventually amputated as well because of its severe damage. Now living in Southern California with wife and daughters, he always had a desire to act.

In Fort Irwin, the viewer is treated to a glimpse of Valle’s life. On his way to participates in a vivid and visceral military reenactment, Valle stops for gas where a loud backfire from a car startles him, showing viewers that Valle has PTSD from his time in Iraq. He receives a call from his therapist who says he needs to go through this and confront trauma to heal. She reminds him he is not leaving California and no matter how realistic it may feel, it is not Iraq. [continue reading…]

A young adult with autism playing the violaLos Angeles, California, Sept. 18 – In a world where media focuses almost solely on children with Autism, Autism: The Sequel will focus on what it is like to be an autistic young adult.

When Autism: The Musical was released in 2007, scores of young children were being identified as autistic. The original film followed five autistic children from The Miracle Project as they created and performed a live musical performance. Now, 12 years later, these children have become young adults with autism. Autism: The Sequel reconnects with these individuals and their families. Through their stories, viewers see the ways in which the world has changed to accommodate autistic people as well as the ways in which it still has not. [continue reading…]

Washington, D.C., Sept. 17 – Comcast is tackling the digital divide through a major expansion of its Internet Essentials program, a low-cost home broadband internet offering for low-income populations and free training on how to use the Internet.

At an event at the Newseum last week, a partnership with the American Association for People with Disabilities (AAPD) was announced, to ensure that the disability community would benefit from this program as well. Comcast has provided a substantial grant to AAPD to help launch a digital literacy pilot program to be delivered at 10 AAPD affiliates across the country, leading to residents within the low-income disability community to have access. [continue reading…]

Six Diverse Maryland Natives Complete Disability Advocacy Fellowship

Washington, D.C., September 17, 2019 – Young Maryland natives passionate about disability rights have just completed a summer internship with a Washington, D.C., area advocacy group to promote inclusion and accessibility. The six came together at RespectAbility, a nonpartisan nonprofit fighting stigma and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, to learn about disability advocacy and gain relevant career experience.

The six come from a broad range of educational backgrounds and have a variety of career aspirations. The Fellows each specialized in different areas of the organization; public policy, nonprofit management, communications, and community outreach. Throughout the summer, they gained hands-on career experience and learned about their individual programming areas as well as the organization as a whole. [continue reading…]

Anthony Brown with RespectAbility team members and the directors and star of the Peanut Butter Falcon in front of a poster for the movieWashington, D.C., September 16, 2019 – Prince George’s County native and sports writer Anthony Rendolph Clarke Brown II has put his writing skills to work for people with disabilities. Brown manages the social media presence for RespectAbility, a nonprofit that works to fight stigma and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. As a Communications Fellow charged with handling the organization’s image on social media, Brown is guided by two objectives: share articles that showcase the talents of people with disabilities and make the disability community aware of legislation that benefits them.

Brown was born with hydrocephalus, excess fluid in the brain, and a slight form of cerebral palsy. He developed mild seizures later in life. Being able to use his journalism background as a Communications Fellow with RespectAbility falls in line with his love of storytelling. He enjoys writing profiles of high-school football and basketball athletes for the website, [continue reading…]

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