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RespectAbility Launches ‘The Hollywood Disability Toolkit’ to Promote Inclusion

Non-profit organization RespectAbility announced the launch of “The Hollywood Disability Toolkit: The RespectAbility Guide to Inclusion in the Entertainment Industry” to help promote disability inclusion.

The toolkit, which is available online for free, aims to assist members of Hollywood with the necessary facts and sources to properly display opportunities for people with disabilities.

Some of the chapters included in the toolkit focus on the correct terminology to use when referring to different disabilities, common acronyms, and frequently asked questions. There are also resources that suggest where to hire performers and crew members with disabilities.

“One in five Americans has a disability, but they are represented by fewer than two percent of TV and fewer than three percent of movie characters” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility. She explained the importance of the number adding, “people with invisible disabilities [mental health, learning differences, chronic health issues and more] are still generally in the closet. There is so much stigma and shame.”

“We want a time when people can bring their authentic, 360 degrees out into the world without negative judgements,” Mizrahi said.

Lauren Appelbaum, RespectAbility’s communications director and author of the toolkit, agreed. “Everyone deserves to see themselves represented on TV,” she said. “When children with disabilities grow up seeing that representation, they will grow up with high expectations of what they will be able to achieve later in life.”

The biggest issue Mizrahi sees in the portrayal of people with disabilities in film and on television is what she called “Jerry Lewis syndrome,” described as people with disabilities being depicted as being in need of pity. “We want to be seen for what we can do, and not what we can’t do,” Mizrahi said. “That is why shows such as ‘Born This Way,’ ‘The Good Doctor’ and ‘Speechless’ are so important.”

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