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Summer Lab Program for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities – 2019

NOTE: This is an archived page from the 2019 Lab. View for the current year’s Lab information and application.


Unprecedented Opportunity for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities

Summer Lab Program: June 18 – July 18, 2019
Meet the 2019 Participants:

Great entertainment requires authentic stories and genuine representation of all people. This includes diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. Hence, RespectAbility is thrilled to offer an innovative lab series for emerging entertainment talent, as well as a track for mid-level career professionals. This is not a program for actors. It is a 5-week, nine-session summer lab program for people interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles.

Participants are assigned to one of two tracks:

  • Emerging: Young professionals with internship or first job experience under their belt aspiring to become writers, directors, producers, animators and other production positions, with the goal of feeding them into diversity programs at major studios, networks and production companies.
  • Mid-Career: A mentorship track for more established individuals with disabilities who wish to take part in the program for the networking opportunities and to serve as mentors for the younger professionals.

Half of the sessions are meeting at various studios, including a tour and a series of meetings with a variety of departments. Program participants will have the opportunity to learn about possible career paths and have networking opportunities. Furthermore, entertainment professionals in positions of power to hire will meet a group of qualified individuals and potentially shift their mindsets in equity goals for hiring. The remaining sessions will meet at RespectAbility’s partner locations around the city. Each lab session will include guest speakers and leaders in the industry, including from Bunim/Murray Productions, GLAAD, Sundance Institute and more.

This program, which continues building the talent pipeline of young professionals with disabilities looking to work behind the scenes, is made possible with support by: Comcast NBCUniversalJonathan Murray and The Walt Disney Company.

Important Details for Summer Lab Applicants

  • Excellent communication and organizational skills are strongly preferred, and participants should exhibit leadership skills to complete their own projects.
  • Strong preference for college graduates. However, a degree is not required.
  • Commit for nine sessions over 5 weeks (June 18 – July 18, 2019). People who will miss more than one session should not apply for the emerging track. If interested in the mid-career track and will miss more than one session, please note in your application.
  • Each session will take place in the afternoon or early evening on weekdays for approximately 5 hours. Sessions take place at various locations in the Los Angeles area.
  • The value of this summer lab program is thousands of dollars. However, there is no cost to participate in this competitive program.
  • While people at all income levels are encouraged to apply, extra consideration will be given to people on SSI, SNAP and TANF.
  • Partnerships include Bunim/Murray Productions, Comcast NBCUniversal, GLAAD, Sundance Institute, The Walt Disney Company and more.
  • RespectAbility will provide ASL interpreters for all educational and related networking events during lab program hours, and welcomes other accommodations requests.
  • Applications considered on a rolling basis. Spaces are limited to 10 individuals in each track.
  • To apply, please send your resume, cover letter and a sample of your work (i.e. a script you have written, a short you have edited, etc.) to Lauren Appelbaum at Your application materials will be evaluated by RespectAbility staff members as well as faculty advisors, listed below.

Programmatic Team

head shot of Lauren wearing an orange blazer, smiling and facing the camera color photo Tatiana Lee smiling outside in a parking lot.

Lauren Appelbaum
Vice President, Communication, RespectAbility
Program Director

Tatiana Lee
Hollywood Inclusionist, RespectAbility
Program Assistant

Faculty Advisors

Karim Ahmad wearing a black polo shirt smiling in front of a white background Deborah Calla smiling for the camera Elaine Hall smiling

Karim Ahmad
Director, Outreach & Inclusion, Sundance Institute

Deborah Calla
CEO, Media Access Awards; 14 year Chair, PGA Diversity Committee, Post Term; Advisor/Brazil Council Lead, Geena Davis Institute

Elaine Hall
Founder, The Miracle Project
Diana Elizabeth Jordan smiling in front of a tree Sue Obeidi smiling wearing a black shirt in front of a white background headshot of Jonathan Murray wearing a gray striped shirt and facing the camera color photo
Diana Elizabeth Jordan
Actor / Director / Producer / Speaker / Educator-Facilitator, Performing Arts Studio West
Sue Obeidi
Director, Hollywood Bureau, Muslim Public Affairs Council
Jonathan Murray
Founder and Executive Consultant, Bunim-Murray
black and white headshot of David Renaud Donna Walton headshot of Delbert Whetter smiling and facing the camera wearing a blue button down shirt color photo
David Renaud
Writer, The Good Doctor
Donna Walton
Founder, The Divas With Disabilities Project

Delbert Whetter
Chief Operating Officer & Head of Business Affairs, Exodus Film Group

headshot of Gail Williamson
Gail Williamson
Talent Agent, KMR Diversity Department

Speakers (with more to be announced)

More Background Information

Just 2.1 percent of scripted television characters have disabilities, compared to 25 percent of American adults having a disability. Entertainment contributes to our values and ideals. What we see and feel impacts how we act. RespectAbility works with entertainment leaders to promote positive, accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on TV and in film.

  • Almost all portrayals of people with disabilities are white, despite the fact that disability impacts all.
  • Actors without disabilities play more than 95% of all characters with disabilities.

Opening the inclusion umbrella is the right thing to do as well as economically smart given that the disability market is valued at more than $1 trillion.

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