Inclusion and Diversity in Hollywood; Summit with Top Experts to be Hosted by Congressman Brad Sherman on February 21, 2017 in Sherman Oaks, California

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Inclusion and Diversity in Hollywood
Summit with Top Experts to be Hosted by Congressman Brad Sherman on February 21, 2017 in Sherman Oaks, California

On February 21, key members of the Hollywood community including RespectAbility board members Jonathan Murray (Executive Producer of Real World, Born This Way, Autism the Musical) and Steve Tingus (content expert on inclusion in Hollywood) will be hosting a summit: “Ending Stigmas & Bigotry: Expanding Diverse Employment and Portrayal in the Entertainment Industry both in Front of and Behind the Camera.” Confirmed attendees include directors, producers, writers, talent agents, actors and others within the creative world of Hollywood – both with and without disabilities – coming together to shape a more diverse and inclusive future. Participants include stars of Emmy-winning Born This Way, who have Down syndrome, as well as people with Autism, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, physical disabilities, amputations and non-visible disabilities. Together, participants will plan to brainstorm new ideas to move a shared agenda forward.

Setting the Stage

  • While one in five people have a disability (and the majority of Americans have a loved one with a disability), fewer than two percent of scripted television characters (15 people) have disabilities.
  • Most characters with disabilities in film and television are played by non-disabled actors and are shown in a negative, inaccurate light. For example, the Jerry Lewis Telethon used people with disabilities as objects of pity for five decades, and more recently the film Me Before You glorified assisted suicide as the best solution for someone who acquires a disability.
  • Almost all portrayals of people with disabilities in Hollywood are played by white actors, despite the fact that disability impacts people of all backgrounds.
  • Fewer than one percent of people employed by cultural institutions in New York City are people with disabilities. The numbers across the country are likely similar, but have not yet been measured.
  • Only one-in-three working-age people with disabilities have a job and people with disabilities are the poorest of the poor.

The summit will address ways to move the needle on two core issues: inclusion and diversity in Hollywood and employment of people with disabilities.

Murray states that including people with disabilities as characters in Hollywood is good for business. His newest show, Emmy-winning Born This Way, features seven individuals with Down syndrome. During its first season, the show increased its viewership by more than 80 percent, which Murray says proves that shows featuring people with disabilities “is not only the right thing to do, it’s also good business.”

Promoting success stories of people with disabilities, like Speechless and Born This Way, helps to change negative perceptions of people with disabilities.

“Each year 300,000 young people with disabilities reach the age to enter the workforce,” Murray said. “However, despite polls showing that most of these young people want to work, they often hit a roadblock because of negative stigmas. So it is wonderful that viewers of Born This Way see young adults in our series contributing to their workplaces, and, in one case, starting her own business. It is also wonderful that our viewers see our cast as individuals, each with distinct personalities and dreams.”

Time: 2:00 – 3:15 p.m. followed by a networking reception until 3:45 p.m.

Location: Circle of Care (COC) Conference Room, Sherman Oaks Hospital
4929 Van Nuys Blvd. | Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

The facility is ADA accessible and we will have an ASL interpreter.

RSVP to Communications Director Lauren Appelbaum at [email protected] or 202-591-0703.

About RespectAbility
RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities.

Said RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, “Films and television can and must do much more to reshape attitudes so that people with disabilities can more fully participate in and contribute to society. We know that by putting people with disabilities on TV – in scripted television, reality TV, the news and in jobs behind scenes — it can help empower people with disabilities to achieve as much of the American Dream as their abilities and efforts permit. Entertainment contributes to the values and ideals that define us; and what we desire to share with our children. What we see, we feel. And what we feel impacts how we act. When you see it, you can be it.”

RespectAbility encourages arts and entertainment leaders – just as it encourages businesses in every sector – to recognize the disability but respect the ability. We ask them to focus on what people with disabilities can do, rather than on what they cannot. We want the power of arts and entertainment to help move the needle of perception regarding people with disabilities so that people of ALL abilities can achieve the American Dream.

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