Winners of the 93rd Academy Awards were unveiled April 25, a day that included another notable announcement: The creation of 1in4, an advocacy group to help disabled workers starting out in entertainment. The coalition was formed when 10 vets began exchanging tales of navigating the industry.
“We are the only organization in Hollywood made up of working disabled professionals, helping the next group of disabled filmmakers to come up the ranks,” Kaitlyn Yang, one of the founders, tells Variety.
In just six months, they have succeeded in getting entry-level jobs such as production assistants for disabled people who wanted to get their foot in the door, but didn’t know how. The group is working to place people in jobs behind the camera and in the offices of execs and decision-makers.
“We’ve also been building a database of disabled talent in every category — writing, producing, directing, costumes, composers, VFX, everything,” Yang adds. “So if people who hire are genuinely interested but don’t know where to look, we will make those connections.”
The group’s name comes from the fact that 25% of the population — one in four — have a disability, visible or otherwise. For most of Hollywood history, these people were ignored; even with the industry’s goals of inclusion, too many executives relegated the disabled to workshops or panels. However, 1in4 wants to go further and make sure these people get jobs: By increasing employment, there will be increased authentic representation of disabled people.
A 1in4 slogan is “Add the A,” a reference to the fact that Hollywood is thinking about DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) but it should be a four-letter acronym, also including accessibility.
“The goal is to make Hollywood accessible for all,” says Stephen Letnes. Like the other nine founders, he is a longtime activist. His Able Artist Foundation gets work for composers with disabilities.
Another founder, Sara Fischer, works for DEIA as head of physical production at Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland; while yet another founder, James LeBrecht, Oscar-nominated as one of the directors of the docu “Crip Camp,” has been fighting for equality for decades, including his recent battles with a surprisingly resistant Emmys to include wheelchair-accessible ramps.
The 1in4 Oscar-day announcement was symbolic, recognizing LeBrecht’s nomination as well as the presence of founder and marketing consultant Andrea LaVant as a disabled Black woman on Oscar’s red carpet.
The other founding members are Eryn Brown, talent manager; Elaine Hall, creator of the Miracle Project arts program; David Kurs, artistic director of Deaf West; writer-actor Ryan O’Connell (Netflix’s “Special”); and actor-writer Natasha Ofili.
Some decision-makers worry about expenses to accommodate disabilities. She counters, “You will harvest that money back. They built ramps when I was working on a show. Every day, the other departments used the ramps as they were setting up and tearing down sets; at the end of six months, we probably saved two weeks of time.”