Hollywood is under pressure to improve representation of people with disabilities both onscreen and behind the camera.
Time’s Up, an organization founded in the wake of the #MeToo movement that seeks to raise awareness of sexual mistreatment in the workplace, has added its voice to the conversation. The foundation has joined 1 in 4, in intersectional coalition of disabled creatives working in Hollywood, to urge for long-term institutional shifts to increase employment and foster authentic portrayals of the disabled community.
“In the United States, 25% of the adult population has a visible or invisible disability,” said Tina Tchen, the president and CEO of Time’s Up Foundation. “But, even though one in four people have a disability, they are missing in our films and television shows, they are not represented in creative, production, and vendor positions, and their stories are not told in the press.”
In a letter to its Hollywood colleagues, 1 in 4 has challenged the industry to set new standards such as adding an “A” for “accessibility” to the already-existing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion departments. It has also called on companies to include visible and invisible disabilities to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility requirements, as well as employ disabled people in all levels of corporate, creative, production and vendor positions.
Other initiatives include asking talent representatives to work with and advocate for disabled artists, along with tracking and disclosing annual percentages of disabled people hired and represented by a company and working on its productions. When it comes to creating film and television, 1 in 4 has asked for Hollywood productions to require an accessibility coordinator and strive to include content featuring authentic and intersectional storylines about disability by and with disabled people.
“Diverse workplaces are safer and healthier workplaces,” Tchen said. “It is time for Hollywood to be accessible for all people and more accurately reflect the world we live in, on screen and off.”
The push to increase realistic depictions of people with disabilities has recently gained momentum. Earlier in April, Amy Poehler, Naomie Harris and more than 80 other entertainment industry figures signed an open letter urging Hollywood to act on disability inclusion. Specifically, the letter asked to implement a permanent position of “Disability Officer” on leadership teams.
“Due to years of misrepresentation in the media, social barriers, and chronic ableism, the Deaf, Hard of Heading, Neurodiverse and Disabled communities continue to be underrepresented and disrespected in the entertainment industry,” it said.