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NEWS

Rockville, Md., Feb. 6 – While many commercials during last night’s Super Bowl focused on diversity and inclusion, the majority did not include people with disabilities.

Coca-Cola reran an ad from the 2014 Super Bowl. “It’s Beautiful” features people of different backgrounds singing “America, The Beautiful” in different languages.

Likewise, Airbnb’s “We Accept” also showcased people of a variety of backgrounds. The ad is set to music with text laid over close-ups of people’s faces that read: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.” The ad ended with the hashtag #WeAccept, which went viral by halftime.

Google’s “Google Home” commercial included multiple minority groups by showing homes with rainbow pride flags and mezuzahs and people from all races cooking, eating, dancing and enjoying life.

Yet all three of these ads, which promoted inclusion of diverse people, failed to include people with disabilities, which is the largest minority in America, with almost one-in-five Americans having a disability. The disability community often is forgotten in diversity conversations in Hollywood and elsewhere.

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#RESPECTTHEABILITY CAMPAIGN: SPOTLIGHT ON PROJECT SEARCH

Embassy Suites by Hilton Omaha-La Vista is Prime Example of Progress of Jobs for People with Disabilities

a woman with a disability working as a barista offers a customer a coffee as an example of the #RespectTheAbility campaign

Embassy Suites by Hilton Omaha-La Vista

Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 2 – David Scott is a charismatic Australian immigrant who has been showcasing the American values of opportunity at Embassy Suites by Hilton Omaha-La Vista. The message that he has for the hospitality industry is simple: “Hiring people with disabilities is just simply great for business!”

Indeed, the Embassy Suites Omaha-La Vista in Nebraska has consistently ranked as the only hotel property to have achieved the #1 ranking for quality, service and guest satisfaction three times. Determined to continue this trend, management was faced with the question: How do we keep this momentum going? Their answer came to them when they were approached by their local school district to be a partner as a Project SEARCH host site.

Project SEARCH is an internship program for transitioning students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Students are immersed in the workplace where they participate in three 10-week rotations to learn transferable job skills and explore career options. Project SEARCH was launched in 1997 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1997 as a way to fill high-turnover positions, and help youth with disabilities prepare for adult life. Since then, this model program has grown rapidly to nearly 500 host sites in 48 states and four countries.

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Academy Award Oscar Statuettes

Photo by Toby Canham/Getty Images

Rockville, Md, Jan. 24 – Of the nine films nominated for Best Picture, four have themes or sub-plots related to disability.

For example, Manchester by the Sea includes themes of mental health, alcoholism and drug use. Likewise, Moonlight includes story lines surrounding drug addiction. Arrival, a science-fiction film, includes a child who dies from cancer.

Fences, a film that has received multiple accolades for its racially diverse themes, also includes a disability storyline. Lead character Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington)’s older brother Gabe Maxson (Mykelti Williamson) sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during World War II. Children in the neighborhood often torment Gabe. When Troy bails Gabe out of jail for disturbing the peace, Troy unknowingly signs a paper that routes half of Gabe’s pension to a psychiatric hospital, forcing Gabe to be institutionalized.

Williamson does not have a disability himself, which is quite common when it comes to casting actors portraying people with disabilities. The Ruderman White Paper on Disability in Television found that non-disabled actors on television play more than 95 percent of characters with disabilities.

When asked by the Los Angeles Times about playing the role of someone with a TBI, Williamson acknowledged the many variables and “different levels of injury and effect” of someone with a TBI.

In the full-length documentary category, Life, Animated, a film about Owen, a boy with Autism, was nominated. The film shows how Owen, a young man who was unable to speak as a child, and his father are able to connect using Disney animated films.

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exterior shot of front of Supreme Court of the United States from across the street

Supreme Court of the United States

Washington, Jan. 13 – Earlier this week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a critical case for children with disabilities, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, one of the most important education cases in decades.

In 1975, Congress passed a federal law requiring school districts to provide a “free appropriate public education” for children with disabilities, which includes individualized education plan (IEP) for students to be included in public schools. The law also provided federal funds for these services. The act was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990. Unfortunately, IDEA has never been fully funded, leading to some school districts struggling to keep up.

This case, representing a boy with autism named Endrew F. (Drew), argues just how much educational benefit the IEPs must provide. While some lower courts have ruled the need for a “meaningful” educational benefit, others require only a bit more than de minimis – the bare minimum.

Since Drew’s parents felt he was not improving in public school, they sent him to a private school where he progressed at a much quicker pace. Under IDEA, parents can receive tuition reimbursement from the school district if their child does not receive enough “educational benefit” from public schooling. Drew’s parents were denied, leading to this case.

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Meryl Streep standing behind a microphone smiling. She is wearing a black dress with many colorful, light-reflecting jewels.

Meryl Streep delivering her Golden Globes acceptance speech

Washington, Jan. 9 – RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and expanding opportunities for people with disabilities, thanks Golden Globe lifetime achievement award-winner Meryl Streep for talking about the importance of not making fun of people with disabilities.

“Disrespect invites disrespect; violence incites violence,” the winner of the Cecil B. DeMille Award said during her acceptance speech. “And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

President-elect Donald Trump fired back via Twitter, calling Streep “over-rated” and “Hillary flunky who lost big.”

RespectAbility, while grateful to Streep for “talking the talk,” challenges her to “walk the walk.”

“Now I hope that Meryl Steep will use her power and influence to ensure that television and movies include people with disabilities with accurate and positive portrayals,” RespectAbility’s President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said. “Think about it – according to the U.S. Census, almost 1-in-5 of us has a disability. Yet according to GLAAD, fewer than two percent of scripted television characters have disabilities. For all the hundreds of shows on television, we are talking just 15 characters!”

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Screenshot of Facebook live video of victim with face blurred

Screenshot of Facebook Live video of victim with face blurred

Washington, Jan. 6 – RespectAbility is outraged that a young man with disabilities was kidnapped and a victim of assault by four young adults who live-streamed the torture on Facebook. We are committed to ending violence against people with disabilities of all races, religions, colors, gender identities, sexual orientations, national origins, ages, genetics or political affiliations.

According the Bureau of Justice statistics, people with disabilities are 2.5 times as likely to be victims of violent crime as individuals without disabilities. Furthermore, people with disabilities between the ages of 12-15 and 35-49 are three times more likely to be victims of violent crimes.

Yet violent acts against people with disabilities often do not receive much public attention. Partially because this vicious attack was broadcast live on Facebook, members of the press and public are paying a great deal of attention. The footage quickly went viral online.

Hate crime charges, among other charges, have been filed against the four assailants.

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Fellows wanted in Policy, Communications, Media, Inclusion and Development! 

RespectAbility Fellows standing in front of the White House in Summer 2015

RespectAbility Fellows standing in front of the White House in Summer 2015

RespectAbility is searching for a talented professional who is interested in working with young professionals to develop their skills and launch their careers. This person will be an essential part of our team as our Leadership Program Director. In this role, the Director will work directly to support talented young leaders who aspire to careers in policy, communications or media.

The Director will be responsible for recruiting diverse Fellows, providing needed accommodations and overseeing a program of guest speakers and work that will have a national impact to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. If you or someone you know is interested in joining our team, please see the full job description on our website here: National Leadership Program

Our National Leadership Program provides participants with access to high level guest speakers, personalized skills training as well as the chance to work on serious projects that will advance RespectAbility’s mission. Since 2013, 74 different, diverse Fellows have participated in our program. Many have gone on to jobs at the White House, government agencies, think tanks, advocacy organizations, political campaigns, nonprofits and more. Others have pursued advance degrees at Georgetown, Columbia and at other top schools.

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Near unanimous bipartisan agreement that a candidate should treat people with disabilities with dignity and respect

View All Poll Data (PDF, Accessible PPT)

Washington, Dec. 14 – Two separate bipartisan polls showed results that may surprise Washington insiders: voters with disabilities and their family and friends voted in big numbers for President-elect Donald Trump. While polls showed that many voters felt Trump made fun of people with disabilities, he was seen as stronger on changing Washington and failed economic policies that hold people with disabilities back.

RespectAbility, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, commissioned questions on two different national polls.

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Donn Weinberg re-elected as chair, ADA co-author Steve Bartlett as Vice Chair, Cal Harris Treasurer and Shelley Cohen Secretary
New members include communications stars Andrew Egan and Calvin Harris, philanthropist Aaron Orlofsky, criminal justice expert Janie L. Jeffers and CEO coach Dr. Dee Soder

RespectAbility team posing for a photo in front of a banner saying RespectAbility

RespectAbility Board Members, Staff and Fellows with Clarence Page, who lead our team in a great discussion on journalism regarding people with disabilities and the issues we care about during our December board meeting; From L to R: Calvin Harris, Tonya Koslo, Thomas “Doc” Sweitzer, Andrew Egan, Shelley Cohen, Dana Marlowe, Donna Meltzer, Philip Pauli, Clarence Page, Byron Murphy, David Richman, Linda Burger, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Matthew Wagner, Donn Weinberg, Dionne Joseph, Samantha Fleischer, Jonathan Murray, Ben Spangenberg, Hillary Steen

Rockville, Md., Dec. 13 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, is proud to announce the election of new officers, as well as new additions to the boards of directors and advisors. Rich in diversity and expertise, the board includes a cross section of national leaders from U.S. Congress, Hollywood, philanthropy, communications and private sector. Moreover, the board of advisors added respected leaders in nonprofit management with deep roots in disability issues.

“We are thrilled to bring such a talented group of leaders with fresh perspective to our boards,” stated Donn Weinberg, Co-Founder and Chair of RespectAbility. “People with disabilities have long been denied entry into the workforce, ultimately depriving 70 percent of working-age Americans a chance to impact our evolving economy. The diverse and bipartisan board we assembled is dedicated to this fight.”

In addition to welcoming five new members to RespectAbility’s boards, Weinberg was re-elected chair for another term. Former Rep. Steve Bartlett was elected Vice President. New board member Calvin Harris was elected Treasurer, and Secretary Shelley Cohen was re-elected to serve another term.

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Philip Pauli, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi posed and smiling for a photo wearing business suits

RespectAbility’s Philip Pauli and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Washington, Dec. 9 – According to multiple news reports, President-elect Donald Trump has announced his choice for Secretary of the Interior, five-term Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Currently the highest-ranking woman in Congress, McMorris Rodgers has been praised by the disability community for her strong history of advocating for the rights of people with disabilities, and RespectAbility congratulates the Congresswoman on her nomination.

In addition, news outlets are reporting that Trump will name Goldman Sachs veteran, Gary Cohn, to head the National Economic Council, where he would have significant influence over the administration’s economic policy, including corporate taxes and U.S. trade policy. Cohn, who has dyslexia, credits this disability with leading to many of his successes.

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Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.

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