As the entertainment industry seeks to be more inclusive of talent with disabilities, RespectAbility, the nonprofit that produced The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit, highlights examples of best practice among studio executives, producers, writers and actors in both the television and film industry during a virtual event.
Part of a larger week-long celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ADA30 Summit: Fighting Stigmas With Hollywood airs live on Wednesday, July 29, from 1:00-3:30 p.m. ET / 10:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. PT.
Bunim-Murray’s Jonathan Murray opens the day with a conversation about ensuring authentic representation in the entertainment industry. With one in five people having a disability in the U.S. today, the lack of representation – just 3.1 percent on screen and even less in children’s television (less than one percent) – means that millions of people are unable to see themselves in media today.
“RespectAbility has been honored to play a part in changing this, including consulting on an array of films and TV shows for a variety of studios and networks,” said Lauren Appelbaum, who leads RespectAbility’s Hollywood Inclusion efforts as the organization’s vice president, communications. “But change must be embraced from the top and have buy-in at every level. This program highlights studios working toward equity in disability inclusion and examples of best practice others can follow.”
Murray will talk with Elisabeth Finch (Grey’s Anatomy), David Renaud (The Good Doctor) and Shoshannah Stern (This Close), as well as Walt Disney Television’s Carolyn Lertzman, NBC Entertainment’s Grace Moss and Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Jennifer Turner.
Everything’s Gonna Be Okay’s Kayla Cromer and Ramy’s Ramy Youssef and Steve Way will talk about disability representation in young adult entertainment media with RespectAbility’s Hollywood Inclusion Associate Tatiana Lee.
In addition, New Amsterdam (NBC)’s casting director David Caparelliotis and Executive Producer David Schulner discuss the intentional inclusion of people with disabilities on screen.
In a conversation moderated by Appelbaum, journalists Victoria Arlen (ESPN), Tim Gray (Variety), Kristen Lopez (IndieWire) and Dino-Ray Ramos (Deadline Hollywood) will discuss disability representation in news media.
A variety of actors with disabilities also will provide video greetings, including their hopes for the next 30 years of the ADA: Danny Gomez (New Amsterdam), Zack Gottsagen (The Peanut Butter Falcon), Eileen Grubba (NNew Amsterdam), Rachel Handler (New Amsterdam), Sophie Kim (The Healing Powers of Dude), Shaylee Mansfield (Deaf Out Loud, Feel the Beat), RJ Mitte (Breaking Bad), Ryan O’Connell (Special), Natasha Ofili (The Politician, Undone), Lauren “Lolo” Spencer (Give Me Liberty).
The two-and-a-half-hour event will end with a focus on behind the camera, taking a look at RespectAbility’s award-winning Lab for entertainment professionals working behind the camera, which was co-founded by Appelbaum and deaf film producer Delbert Whetter. Award-winning filmmaker Nasreen Alkhateeb, an alumna of the 2019 Lab who served as a Senior Production Advisor for the 2020 Lab, will have a conversation with Walt Disney Television’s Executive Incubator Program Creative Associate April Caputi, NYC-based filmmaker Kiah Amara, model, writer and actress Natalie Gross, and Leah Romond, 2019 Lab alumna, 2020 Lab Senior Production Advisor, and producer of Best Summer Ever.
The entire week’s events, which are free and include ASL interpreters and live captions, will be recorded and shared with open captions, along with transcripts. This series is made possible through the generosity of Comcast NBCUniversal, the Murray/Reese Foundation, Sony Pictures Entertainment and The Walt Disney Company.