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

Los Angeles, California, Nov. 7 – Scripted broadcast programming added nine more series regular characters with disabilities for the 2019-2020 season in comparison to last year, a new report by GLAAD found. This means that the percentage of characters with disabilities has risen a full percentage point to 3.1 percent. While this is a record high, the report cautions the data “still falls far short of reflecting reality,” as more than twenty percent of people in the U.S. have a disability.

Of the 879 series regulars on broadcast programming, GLAAD found that 3.1 percent (27 characters) have disabilities, in comparison to 2.1 percent (18 characters) last year. There are nine characters across all three platforms tracked (broadcast, cable, streaming) with HIV and AIDS, an increase from the seven characters counted last year and a substantial increase from the two counted two years ago.

GLAAD’s 2019-2020 Where We Are on TV Report includes the only analysis of primetime scripted series regulars on broadcast networks of characters with disabilities. Largely known for tracking the number of LGBTQ+ characters on broadcast and cable networks, as well as streaming services, the Where We Are on TV Report also tracks racial, gender and disability inclusion on television. [continue reading…]

Eight panelists sitting behind a table in a Capitol Hill meeting room for an NDEAM event. Sign language interpreter and screen with CART text on left side of photo.Washington, D.C., Nov. 6 – The Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination (CPSD) and the National Council on Disability celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) with their third congressional briefing last week. There was standing room only as the audience learned about competitive integrated employment (CIE), community jobs where people with disabilities work alongside co-workers without disabilities and are paid competitive wages (minimum wage or above). Evidence from the briefing indicates that CIE provides greater financial independence for people with disabilities.

The event shined the spotlight on Virginians with disabilities who have successfully transitioned from sheltered workshops, where people with disabilities earn just a few dollars an hour and are segregated from employees without disabilities, to CIE. Tonya Millings, Director of Arc of Virginia was on the first panel. Her organization provides direct services to Lakesha Logan and Eric Cottrell—both Virginians. Lakesha and Eric are two success stories of people with disabilities who transitioned from sheltered workshops to CIE. [continue reading…]

Eileen Grubba seated in a wheelchair moving through a roomLos Angeles, California, Nov. 5 – In tonight’s episode of NBC’s New Amsterdam, one of the doctors will discover a long-kept secret regarding a patient. This patient, Elizabeth Archer, is played by actress Eileen Grubba, who has a disability and advocates for the inclusion of performers with disabilities in film and television.

New Amsterdam is known for casting authentically, like the show has done in previous episodes with Lauren Ridloff and others.

“Performers with visible, or perceptible, disabilities have been kept out for so many years, but we are finally seeing the doors open to authentic casting,” Grubba said. “The depth of emotion and passion that comes with a real disability experience is unmatchable. It moves people. It also helps audience understand and accept ALL differences, including their own. That is true diversity and it only elevates humanity. It is a win for all.” [continue reading…]

Speakers and guests at Bank of America's Southern California DAN event smiling together. Text: #RespectTheAbility

Speakers and guests at Bank of America’s Southern California Disability Advocacy Network annual event.

Los Angeles, California, Oct. 31 – “Don’t limit us to what you think we are capable of doing,” Tatiana Lee said to hundreds of Bank of America employees assembled to celebrate the power of employing people with disabilities. “We will surprise you.”

Employees with disabilities and their allies gathered to recognize the value of including people with disabilities, both in terms of staff and as customers. The Southern California’s Disability Advocacy Network (DAN)’s signature year-end event recognized National Disability Employment Awareness Month, seeking advice from disability advocates on how they can be more inclusive of people with disabilities. Globally, DAN has grown by 70 percent over the last three years and now has more than 7,000 global members. Not all members, however, are people with disabilities or their family members. Some members joined DAN because they recognize the role of allyship and how employees with disabilities makes their company stronger.

Four panelists sitting and speaking as part of a discussion on the power to include people with disabilities in the media.

Panel on Media Representation of People with Disabilities at Bank of America’s Southern California Disability Advocacy Network annual event

“My mother never doubted what I could do,” said Lee, an actress with spina bifida who uses a wheelchair. “But she did say because I am a black girl with a disability, I’m going to have to fight three times as hard.” Lee, speaking to the Southern California DAN members, advocates for disability inclusion in the entertainment industry by partnering with the nonprofit RespectAbility.

Closing the event, DAN Executive Sponsor John Berens, who is a mortgage and vehicle operations executive in global technology and operations at Bank of America, emphasized the bank’s approach to a socially conscious model of working with people with disabilities, versus a charity model of working for people with disabilities. “We believe in inclusiveness at the bank,” he stressed. “It helps us be better.”

This annual event is just one of several ways Bank of America acknowledges the contributions of people with disabilities. In 2017, the bank conducted a self-identification campaign for their employees, which resulted in the number of employees who disclosed having a disability doubling. Building a culture where employees feel comfortable disclosing – even in an anonymous manner – is an important step leading to full inclusion for potential hires, employees, customers and the communities the bank serves. [continue reading…]

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee smiling in front of the state flag and an American flagNashville, Tennessee, Oct. 31 – Gov. Bill Lee has declared October as Disability Employment Awareness Month to advance economic opportunities for Tennesseans with disabilities.

“Every person, regardless of ability, has valuable strengths, infinite capacity to learn and the potential to make important contributions to their local communities,” Gov. Lee said in a statement released earlier this month.  He went on to call attention to the “value of employees with disabilities to the state’s current and future workforce” as well as his state’s efforts at “expanding employment opportunities for citizens with disabilities.”

This proclamation follows a year of solid job growth for people with disabilities in the Volunteer State. 4,679 Tennesseans with disabilities entered the workforce last year, part of a national trend of jobs gained among people with disabilities. [continue reading…]

Governor Tim Walz smiling in front of an American flag and the Minnesota state flagSaint Paul, Minnesota, Oct. 31 – This month, the Twin Cities Arby’s was named an Outstanding Disability Employer by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation. This recognition happened as part of a state-wide celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Ben Kopnick, coordinator of the grant program that supported Arby’s to hire more employees with disabilities spoke about “working to integrate them in their workplace culture” and the employees with disabilities learning to “push themselves and grow their skillsets.”

Arby’s is one such example of how the North Star State is working to continue expanding job opportunities for Minnesotans with disabilities.

In a statement released earlier this month, Gov. Tim Walz proclaimed October to be “Employers Hiring People with Disabilities Month.” [continue reading…]

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy smiling in front of the Alaska state flagJuneau, Alaska, Oct. 31 – Alaska Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy has declared October as Disability Employment Awareness Month to help advance more economic opportunities for people with disabilities.

“This observance, highlights the talent and value added to our workplace and our communities by individuals with disabilities, and reaffirms the State of Alaska’s commitment to all of our citizens,” Gov. Dunleavy wrote in a statement released earlier this month. His proclamation also discussed how “competitive and unified employment provides individuals with a sense of pride, financial security, stable living conditions, access to better health management, and increased independence.”

Further, the proclamation also reflected on Alaska’s standing commitments as a “Employment First State, prioritizing competitive and assimilated employment for Alaskans.” Lastly, Gov. Dunleavy also touched on “the Alaska Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act” that “empowers Alaskans with disabilities to pursue employment earnings and savings, while allowing them to still qualify for vital public benefits.”

This statement reflects the accomplishments of a state that outperforms many of the Lower 48 states in the Union. A recent study by RespectAbility, a nonpartisan disability inclusion organization, found that Alaska ranks 12th out of the 50 states in terms of disability employment. [continue reading…]

Governor Doug Ducey smiling in front of an American flag and the Arizona state flagTempe, Arizona, Oct. 31 – Tempe is leading the state in a new effort to expand job opportunities for Arizonans with disabilities. Thanks to the leadership of the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council and Mayor Mark W. Mitchell, the City of Tempe has launched a new Building Employment Supports & Training (BEST) program. This program is intended to help job seekers with disabilities secure part-time employment by developing key relationships with diverse partners. Covering everything from “changing the City of Tempe’s culture, linguistic competency, and creating a municipality model” to “providing city employees, workgroups, and BEST employees training for success.”

According to the Institute on Disability, 156,194 Arizonans with disabilities have jobs, putting the state’s disability employment rate at 36.5 percent. That total includes people who are blind or deaf or have other visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, as well as people with invisible disabilities including learning disabilities, mental health or Autism.

As such, Gov. Doug Ducey has declared October to be Disability Employment Awareness Month to advance more opportunities for Arizonans with disabilities. [continue reading…]

Governor Gretchen Whitmer smiling in front of an American flag and a Michigan state flagLansing, Michigan, Oct. 31 – Earlier this month, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a proclamation focusing on the stigmas and barriers associated with “invisible or hidden” disabilities for Disability Employment Awareness Month. Her statement spoke about how “10 percent of people live with a condition which could be considered an invisible or hidden disability” and that “nearly half of Americans are living with a chronic medical condition.”

Meanwhile, in Michigan’s state legislature, bipartisan leaders are throwing their weight behind an initiative to advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities. State Reps. Jon Hoadley (D-60th District) and Steve Marino (R-24th District) are championing a pair of bills focused on expanding the use of and covering the costs associated with reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. Both bills are the result of the advocacy work by the Disability Network Southwest Michigan, which motivated Hoadley to “help more people with disabilities enter the workplace.” The bipartisan package would allow employers to apply for up to $1,000 to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. [continue reading…]

Oliver Stark on 9-1-1 sitting by a firetruck

Oliver Stark as Buck on 9-1-1. Photo Credit: Fox

Los Angeles, California, Oct. 28 – Fox’s 9-1-1 is no stranger to disability representation, introducing a recurring character with a disability last season, working to normalize the inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas of society. This season continues this trend – both with promoting Gavin McHugh, who has cerebral palsy and plays Christopher Diaz to a series regular, and adding additional storylines relating to disability.

During a routine fire drill in Episode 4, “Triggers,” a businessman has an epileptic seizure, most likely due to the strobing lights and loud sounds of the drill. When he falls, it causes a domino effect, with dozens of individuals falling down the stairway. As he is being put into the ambulance a lawyer from the building approaches him. “I have reason to believe this building is not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” he says. “There are several legal actions you may wish to consider.” [continue reading…]

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