Disability Representation Hits Landmark High, Yet Reinforces Negative Stereotypes

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We are so glad that thousands of people have participated in our virtual workshop series so far. While most are available via both Zoom and Facebook Live, some are exclusively offered only to individuals who register through Zoom, which provides a free link for each participant to ensure security. So, please remember to register for them when we advertise new opportunities!

If you missed our event with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media’s CEO Madeline Di Nonno earlier this week, we’re glad to present our analysis of their most recent report below. We also highly recommend reading the See Jane 2020 Report for data on disability as well as gender, race/ethnicity, LGBTQ+, age and body size in family film.

We’d like to highlight that tomorrow is the last day to participate in Freeform’s open casting call for actors who can play 18-25. Please find more information about this below.

We also invite you to a poll briefing on Monday, May 11 to learn how the community who is the most at risk – people with disabilities – feels about the pandemic, SNAP (food stamps), voter access and more. Pollster Stan Greenberg, PhD from Democracy Corps and Page Gardner from the Voter Participation Center will join Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility, and Ollie Cantos, Board Member of RespectAbility whose blind triplet sons currently are recovering from COVID-19, to discuss the findings from a new survey. More information is below.

Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and visit our RespectAbility.org website, where you can find free online learning opportunities and other resources. Please reach out to us if we can provide any assistance.


Lauren Appelbaum
Vice President of Communications, RespectAbility

Learn From Home: Video Podcast
If you did not watch live, we invite you to watch this video podcast from home! Higher quality videos will be posted with open captions next week. This version includes an ASL interpreter but no captions. Have a question for a panelist? Email Tatiana Lee and she’ll get the answer for you!
Our fourth in the series, Finding Success as a Producer and Writer with a Disability, was presented in partnership with The Media Access Awards featuring a conversation with the co-chairs of the Media Access Awards, Deborah Calla and Allen Rucker. Deborah and Allen talked about what it takes to be a producer and a writer as well as opportunities available for disabled artists. The conversation was moderated by Tatiana Lee, 2018 recipient of the Reeves Acting Scholarship from The Christopher & Dana Reeves Foundation, which she accepted at the Media Access Awards.
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Did you miss any of our other previous ones? Watch them today!

Are you interested in participating in a future video podcast? We would be delighted to give you a platform to share your knowledge. Email Lauren Appelbaum for more information: LaurenA.

Disability Portrayal on Screen Hits a Landmark High, Yet Reinforces Negative Stereotypes
Characters with Disabilities More Likely to Be Rescued or Die, But Those in the Workforce Portrayed Positively in Family Films

When it comes to showing people with disabilities on TV, they are almost never seen, and when they are, it is in a negative light, limiting opportunities for people with disabilities everywhere. However, a new study by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found the family film industry brings a continued historic high for leading characters with disabilities. In fact, eight percent of family films in both 2018 and 2019 featured a lead with a disability. This is jump up from just one percent from most of the last decade and shows that the increased representation is being sustained from one year to the next. While this number is still not representative of people with a disability in the U.S. – as one-in-five people in the U.S. live with a disability today, it is a step in the right direction.

“Media is one of the most immediate and impactful ways to influence our views on societal norms and has the power to eradicate intersectional gender inequality in our global cultures,” said Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. “If our audiences can see themselves positively portrayed onscreen, it can reinforce the message that they matter. And also, it can influence their long-term views throughout their lives.”

The study found that characters with disabilities in family films are depicted positively in the workplace. Characters with disabilities are twice as likely to be shown in management positions than other characters (20.0% compared with 10.7%). In addition, these characters are more likely to be represented as hardworking, in STEM occupations and as leaders than other characters.

However, far too many of these characters reinforced negative stereotypes, including making the disability the most prominent aspect of the character. Often times the storyline revolves exclusively around the character’s relationship to their disability, with no other personality traits.

Characters with disabilities are more likely to be rescued in family films than other characters (34.3% compared with 20.6%). In addition, characters with disabilities are nearly twice as likely to die in family films as other characters (20.0% compared with 11.7%).

“Including a character with a disability must be an intentional effort,” said Lauren Appelbaum, who leads RespectAbility’s Hollywood Inclusion efforts as the organization’s Vice President of Communications and author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit. “What we see, or don’t see, on screen influences how we act in real life – making it all the more important to promote content that accurately portrays children with disabilities. The entertainment industry has an opportunity to help remove the stigmas that currently exist about interacting with individuals with disabilities. Seeing these characters in family films, especially when they are portrayed as multi-dimensional beings and their disability is not the sole focus in the story, goes a long way in educating viewers.”

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What to Watch: Excellent Disability-Inclusive Content
Our friends at the Media Access Awards are presenting a new interview series. We invite you to watch these videos they have produced!
Media Access Awards Easterseals Interview Series
Katherine Beattie, a writer on the TV show NCIS: New Orleans shares how to break into the entertainment industry.
Media Access Awards Easterseals Interview Series
Shoshannah Stern, an actor, writer and co-creator of the Sundance series This Close with Josh Feldman, explains how they took the concept for the show all the way to fruition.
California Prioritizing Food Security for People with Disabilities
Californians with disabilities now can use SNAP to eat safely while other states leave people with disabilities at risk
Flyer advertising that CalFresh Food benefits can now be used to purchase groceries online at select retailers. photo of a man in his kitchen holding bread and a knife making a sandwich.

Californians with disabilities and other recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) no longer have to choose between risking exposure to COVID-19 or getting food from the grocery store.

As of April 28, California’s SNAP program, CalFresh, covers online grocery delivery. This benefits approximately 1.1 million Californians with disabilities who depended on SNAP benefits.

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Casting Calls, Jobs and Other Opportunities
Last Chance Casting Call for Freeform

Freeform is holding a virtual talent search for actors who can play 18-25! The network wants prospective talent to self-record one of four Freeform series monologues available on its casting website and submit their video via upload for consideration. Talent submissions can be considered for future projects at the network. Applicants must be US citizens at least 18 years-old to submit.

Submit by 7:00 p.m. PT on May 8.

The 2021 Walt Disney Television Writing Program

WRITERS: Apply now! The 2021 Walt Disney Television Writing Program application is live. The deadline is Friday, June 5, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. PST.

This year’s application process has changed, so be sure to carefully read all application materials, following these steps to submit:

1) Read the Application Instructions: http://bit.ly/wdt-wpinstructions-2021
2) Read the FAQs: http://bit.ly/wdt-wpfaqs-2021
3) Complete the online application: http://bit.ly/wdt-wpapp-2021

Learn More

The MPAC Hollywood Bureau

The MPAC Hollywood Bureau’s TV Pilot for a Limited Series contest around what is going on with the pandemic: This is your opportunity to share what is going on with your friends, family in community and a chance to have your work read by Grainne Godfree, an Executive Producer of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow on a 90 minute Zoom session!

The requirements:

  • Must be Muslim identifying (or at least one of the writers are if applying as a writing team)
  • Thirty pages, of any genre
  • Script contains at least one character that identifies as Muslim and is an integral part of the story
  • The script can be of any genre, and while it can contain some levity, it should not make light of the serious consequences around the virus
  • Scripts must be registered with the Writers Guild of America

Submit screenplays prior to May 15.

2020 NBC Production Office Coordinator Program

The Production Office Coordinator Program gives ethnically diverse participants an opportunity to shadow a PRODUCTION OFFICE COORDINATOR on an NBC series. For the 2020-21 season, finalists on a scripted series will be dedicated to one show over the course of the season while participants on unscripted series will rotate through several shows during the same production period. Candidates must be eligible to work in the United States and should have at least one year of production experience. They should be available to start the program in July. Deadline to apply is May 17.

Learn More

NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship

AAPD is offering eight (8) NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarships for the fall semester of 2020. The NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship is available to undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities who are pursuing an interest in the media, entertainment or communications fields. Each recipient will receive $5,625 to help cover the cost of education. Deadline to apply is May 21.

Learn More

ViacomCBS 2020-2021 Writers Mentoring Program

This is a comprehensive writing program that helps launch the careers of diverse television writers, pairing them up with ViacomCBS executives as mentors to develop new material. They select five to 10 writers, assign them executive mentors to work on a pilot for four months, followed by four months of weekly workshops focused on the soft skills of maintaining a career in the industry. Deadline to apply is May 31.

Learn More

Casting Call: Cheaper By The Dozen – 12-Year-Old Girl Who Uses a Wheelchair

HARLEY BAKER: Actor to play 12, caucasian girl who has great wit and humor. She’s a superstar when it comes to stunts with her chair.

STORY LINE: Cheaper by the Dozen is a comedic portrayal of a loving, sprawling, racially-mixed blended family, in which the challenges and triumphs that come with divorce, remarriage, adoption, multiple religions, truly define what makes a family.

Please email the below address with your headshot, resume and location: [email protected]. Open to all levels of acting experience.

Casting Call: Deaf/Hard of Hearing Woman

We are helping Crypt TV cast a role for an upcoming episodic streaming series. Talent must be deaf/hard of hearing. Talent must be able to voice lines clearly in English and must be fluent in ASL.

[OLIVIA] Mid 20s – Early 30s. Olivia is guarded and reserved but strong. She has convinced herself that she’s healed from her devastating childhood trauma through her passion — music. That trauma left her nearly deaf, reliant upon a hearing aid and sign language to communicate. Because of that trauma, she never had a normal childhood. Now, she and her co-worker, Tracy, run a music center for children. In teaching them, she experiences joy and wonder through the eyes of youth.

Email to contact casting director

Casting Call: Documentary Series About Dating and Relationships Featuring People on the Autism Spectrum

Northern Pictures is looking for SINGLE people, living in the United States, who
are on the autism spectrum and are interested in dating. You may have no history of dating, or you might be an experienced dater, feel free to get in touch and say hello. They are also looking for COUPLES, or people who have just started seeing each other, even if you’re not yet official! Either one or both of you might be autistic.

There are many misconceptions out there about autism, one of them being that people aren’t interested in finding love. Northern Pictures wants to show that this isn’t true, and to help people understand more about neurodiversity. They aim to make an honest, sensitive and insightful documentary series.

If you or someone you know might be interested, please send an email with a brief description of yourself, where you live and a photo to: production.

Poll Briefing: People with Disabilities & COVID-19, SNAP, Voter Access and More
As the country is gripped with issues surrounding COVID-19, find out how the community who is the most at risk – people with disabilities – feels about the pandemic, SNAP (food stamps), voter access, and more.

Democracy Corps conducted a 2,000-sample web survey, April 27-May 3, on behalf of the nonprofit and nonpartisan Center for Voter Information (CVI) in 16 battleground states, the second of a series of tracking surveys on the pandemic.

Pollster Stan Greenberg, PhD from Democracy Corps and Page Gardner from the Voter Participation Center will join Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility, and Ollie Cantos, Board Member of RespectAbility whose blind triplet sons currently are recovering from COVID-19, to discuss the findings from this survey.

Date: Monday May 11, 2020
Time: 3:00 p.m. ET / 12:00 p.m. PT

Stan Greenberg, CEO, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR)
Page Gardner, Voter Participation Center
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President and CEO, RespectAbility
Ollie Cantos, Board Member, RespectAbility

Learn More & RSVP
Thank You to our Readers
Entertainment contributes to the values and ideals that define us. What we see, we feel. And what we feel impacts how we act.

This newsletter is for entertainment professionals and journalists wishing to ensure accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on screen as well as behind the camera.

We also are glad to list job opportunities and casting calls for people with disabilities looking to enter and advance in the industry. Sometimes we are asked to give specific referrals, so please reach out directly so we can help make connections!

Looking for a script review or other advice on how to be inclusive? Have an inclusive film you would like reviewed? Reach out to RespectAbility’s Vice President of Communications, Lauren Appelbaum, LaurenA!

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Editor of Don411.com Media website.
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