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RespectAbility Unveils New Website For Growing Entertainment Media Consulting Team

24 Apr 2021

By Lauren Appelbaum

Site showcases RespectAbility’s expanding network of consultants, as their work in the space of disability representation in film and TV also continues to grow

Los Angeles, April 22 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit focused on fighting stigmas of people with disabilities in media and advocating for more authentic representation, is proud to announce the launch of their Entertainment Media Consulting Team website. The site currently features 27 consultants, although the number continues to expand as the consultation requests to RespectAbility from studios, production companies and independent filmmakers continue to roll in.

In an effort to progress quality representation of people with disabilities in film and television, RespectAbility has fostered a continually growing relationship with the most influential companies in Hollywood, including industry giants such as The Walt Disney Company, Netflix, Sony Pictures Entertainment, WarnerMedia, MTV Entertainment Group, NBCUniversal, CAA and many others. Throughout the past five years, RespectAbility has increased its scope of work with the industry. In 2019, RespectAbility team members consulted on about a dozen films, television episodes and related projects in the industry. In 2020, as commitment to authentic disability representation and accessibility throughout the entire industry dramatically expanded, that number increased to more than 70 projects. Already in 2021 their team has consulted on an additional 35 TV episodes and films, in addition to many carrying over from 2020.

Lauren Appelbaum, VP of Communications at RespectAbility, head of the Entertainment and News Media outreach team and author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit, believes that the best way to capture nuanced and accurate representation of people with disabilities is to hire them. “As RespectAbility’s network has grown, so has our workload, leading to our ever-expanding consulting team,” she said. “Our goal is to use our vast team of experts representing a variety of lived experiences with disabilities to help ensure the most authentic representation. However, as we continue to work with the industry, we are not only providing quality consultants, but also providing connections to writers, directors, actors, and crew with disabilities for companies to hire. While hiring consultants is great, nothing can replace having disabled writers in the writers’ room and people with disabilities involved throughout the production process.”

RespectAbility has been able to build this team of consultants, including individualized training on how to effectively do this work, thanks to funding from The Harnisch Foundation. This funding also enabled RespectAbility to increase its full-time staff and advisors, which include:

  • Lauren Appelbaum, VP, Communications
  • Eric Ascher, Communications Associate
  • Lesley Hennen, Entertainment and News Media Associate
  • Vanni Le, Entertainment Outreach Program Manager
  • Tatiana Lee, Senior Associate, Entertainment Media
  • Nasreen Alkhateeb, Senior Production Advisor
  • Leah Romond, Senior Production Advisor

RespectAbility also recently welcomed three new board members in this industry – Christine Cadena (Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion, The Walt Disney Company), Paul Martin(Chief Diversity Officer, Sony Pictures Entertainment) and Victor Pineda(World Enabled and Windmills & Giants). They join Jonathan Murray(Bunim-Murray Productions) and Delbert Whetter (Exodus Film Group), who serve as the board co-chairs for RespectAbility’s work in the entertainment industry, and Stephen Chbosky (Writer/Director).

As inclusion becomes a bigger topic in Hollywood and society in general, it is important to ensure that people from all communities see themselves represented in all types of media. Currently, while 18.6 percent of people in the U.S. have a disability, just 3.5 percent of characters on TV and less than one percent in children’s television are disabled. RespectAbility is excited to help bolster the voice of the many spectacular experts in the disability community to help ensure a more accurate and inclusive media landscape.

“With the market size of the extended disability community being 63%, opening the inclusion umbrella is not just the right thing to do,” said Tatiana Lee, RespectAbility’s Senior Associate, Entertainment Media. “It also is economically smart, as the disability market is valued at more than $1 trillion, according to Nielsen.”

While consultation requests will continue to be facilitated through RespectAbility’s Entertainment and News Media team, studios, production companies and independent filmmakers who are interested in working with a consultant can view the team and get an idea of the scope of work that RespectAbility’s consultants are able to advise on, here: https://www.respectability.org/entertainment-media-consulting-team.

For the past two years, RespectAbility has been running a Lab specifically for diverse entertainment professionals with disabilities working behind the camera, ensuring a pipeline of talent for these roles. Many of these Lab alumni are part of this expanding team. The list of consultants is not exhaustive, as each request is handled individually.

All consultation requests involve bringing an individual with the specific disability in question to the project. Occasionally, the request may be outside the scope of RespectAbility’s work. In that case, RespectAbility will make introductions to other organizations and individuals that can better service the request.

Current Disability Consultants include:

  • Alex Howard, Entertainment and News Media Fellow, RespectAbility
  • Alexandra Dean Grossi, Writer
  • Andrea Jennings, Music Business Advocate/Event Producer
  • Andrew Pilkington, Producer/Writer
  • Andrew Reid, Director
  • Ashley Eakin, Writer/Director
  • Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt, Writer/Actress/Advocate
  • Emily Kranking, Actress/Writer
  • Eric Ascher, Communications Associate, RespectAbility
  • Delbert Whetter, Jevon Whetter and Justin Maurer, Deaf-led ASL Consulting Team
  • Gail Williamson, Talent Agent
  • Harold Foxx, Actor/Comedian/Writer
  • Kiah Amara, Production Access Coordinator/Producer
  • Lachi, Recording Artist/Composer
  • Lauren Appelbaum, VP, RespectAbility | Disability Inclusion & Accessibility Consultant
  • Leah Romond, Attorney/Producer
  • Lenny Larsen, Development Executive/Producer/EP
  • Lesley Hennen, Writer/Producer
  • Nasreen Alkhateeb, Writer/Director
  • Rachel Handler, Filmmaker
  • Roque Gregorio Renteria, Writer/Comedian
  • Shaina Ghuraya, Writer/Director
  • Shireen Alihaji, Documentary Fillmmaker
  • Tatiana Lee, Actress/Activist & Senior Associate, Entertainment Media, RespectAbility
  • Vanni Le, Entertainment Outreach Program Manager

RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization that works collaboratively with employers, elected officials, policy makers, educators, self-advocates, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, philanthropists and the entertainment and news media to fight stigmas and advance opportunities. Comprised of diverse people with disabilities, RespectAbility’s Entertainment and News Media Team partners with studios, production companies, writers’ rooms and news organizations to create equitable and accessible opportunities to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the overall story-telling process. These initiatives, including the award-winning RespectAbility Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities, increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people on screen, leading to systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities. To learn more about everything RespectAbility is doing, check out their website at www.respectability.org.

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