New Report: Hispanics With and Without Disabilities Absent from Film

Washington, Sept. 8 – Only 2.4 percent of all speaking or named characters in film were shown to have a disability in 2015 and none of the leading character were from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups, according to a new report by The Media, Diversity, & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Inequality in 800 Popular Films.

This statistic is not representative of the number of Americans with a disability, which is one-in-five, or 20 percent. Furthermore, as the report points out, “the portrayal of characters with disability is out of line with population norms in the U.S.” in terms of representation of other demographics – gender, race/ethnicity and LGBT status.

“Depictions of disability are not only marginalized,” the report says, “they also obscure the true diversity of this community.”

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First Ever Senate/Governor Disability Vote Campaign Questionnaire

Washington, Sept. 6 – Employment. Stigma. Education. Criminal Justice. Independent Living. Sexual Assault. Housing. Transportation. Adaptive Technology. Fifteen candidates for Senate or Governor have given detailed answers about their views on these issues for people with disabilities.

The more than 56 million people with disabilities in the U.S. have a long list of policy concerns for the candidates running for governor and the U.S. Senate in 2016. Only one-in-three working-age Americans with a disability has a job, despite the fact that studies show that 70 percent want to work. Moreover, according to Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success, more than 750,000 people with disabilities are behind bars in our nation. Disability is the only minority group that people can join at any time due to accident, illness or aging.

RespectAbility, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, asked candidates on both sides of the aisle to complete a 16 (for gubernatorial) or 17 (for Senate) question survey. The questionnaire asked for their positions on a range of issues important to the disability community, a group that makes up fully one-in-five Americans. Their answers are posted verbatim and in full on The RespectAbility Report, a publication that covers the intersection of disability and politics.

This is the first time down-ballot candidates have been asked to complete a questionnaire about disability-related issues on such a wide scale.

So far, four candidates for governor from Delaware, Missouri, New Hampshire and Vermont (two Republican candidates and two Democratic candidates) have submitted a response. On the Senate side, RespectAbility has received eleven responses from candidates. The Senate responses are from seven Democrats and four Republicans from Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida.

Said RespectAbility’s president Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, “Since disability doesn’t discriminate, voters with disabilities are every race, age, ethnic group, religion and gender. As the presidential election has become polarized around racial and ethnic lines, disability issues can create the difference between winning and losing.”

And candidates have begun to use disability in their campaign ads. Priorities USA, a pro-Clinton superPAC, released two ads in swing states targeting Trump’s treatment of people with disabilities – Dante, featuring a 17-year-old African American boy with a disability, and Grace, featuring parents of a child with spina bifida.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan‘s first ad tells the story of her son Ben, who has cerebral palsy, is a wheelchair user and is nonverbal. She is running for New Hampshire’s open Senate seat.

Just today, GOP Sen. Richard Burr‘s campaign is out with a new statewide television ad in North Carolina highlighting his work in support of the bi-partisan Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. This new law, which also was supported by Maryland Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, creates new savings accounts for individuals with disabilities in order to pay for qualified disability expenses.

Below are links to detailed answers to the questionnaire.

Text in image: #PwDsVote 2016 Senate and Gubernatorial Disability Questionnaire, mage in background - two individuals at voting booths, one in a wheelchair and one using a white cane

State Gubernatorial Candidate View Full Answers
Delaware Colin Bonini (R)
Missouri Chris Koster (D)
New Hampshire Derek Dextraze (D)
Vermont Phil Scott (R)


State Senate Candidate View Full Answers
Louisiana Foster Campell (D)
Louisiana Caroline Fayard (D)
Louisiana Abhay Patel (R)
Maryland Kathy Szeliga (R)
Maryland Chris Van Hollen (D)
Nevada Catherine Cortez Masto (D)
North Carolina Richard Burr (R)
North Carolina Deborah Ross (D)
Pennsylvania Katie McGinty (D)
Wisconsin Russ Feingold (D)
Florida (lost primary) Dwight Young (R)

RespectAbility and The RespectAbility Report are nonpartisan and do not endorse candidates. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes.

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Paralympics: Stigma Buster for People with Disabilities

Washington, Sept. 6 – Fully 56 million Americans – one in five – have a disability. Disability does not discriminate – it happens to people of every race, ethnic group, gender and age. It can happen to anyone at any time due to accident, illness or aging. Yet people with disabilities are frequently seen for what they CANNOT do, rather than what they CAN do. The Paralympics show the remarkable physical achievements of serious world-class athletes with disabilities. ESPN has a primer on the Paralympics that is worth reading.

Thanks to NBC, this year’s Paralympics games will have television coverage that is similar to the Olympics television coverage, a first for the Paralympics, which begin tomorrow night. NBC will show 66 hours of the Games, a 60.5-hour increase over the coverage that was given to the London 2012 Paralympics.

This summer’s Paralympics will feature more than 4,300 athletes competing in 22 sports, making this year’s Games the largest to date. The Paralympics is only for people who have one of the 10 eligible impairments, which include visual impairments, amputations and cerebral palsy. To prevent competition where the least impaired athlete always wins, athletes are separated into classes based on the limitations of their impairment. Paralympians spend years training and competing in qualifying competitions to make it to the Paralympics.

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The Emmys: Seeing Hispanics in Hollywood

Washington, Aug. 26 – For the first time in history, a TV show staring people with disabilities has been nominated for an Emmy Award– and one of the stars, Cristina, is Hispanic! The glass ceiling-breaking show is Born This Way, A&E Network’s critically acclaimed and award-winning original docuseries which airs Tuesday at 10 pm. Born This Way was nominated for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program. In addition, two episodes were nominated for Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program.

The show documents real life as Cristina and her fiancée Angel continue to look forward to their wedding, but have a lot of life skills to master before they are ready to live on their own.

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The Emmys: Seeing African Americans in Hollywood

Washington, Aug. 26 – For the first time in history, a TV show staring people with disabilities has been nominated for an Emmy Award – and one of the stars, John, is African American! The glass ceiling-breaking show is Born This Way, A&E Network’s critically-acclaimed and award-winning original docuseries. Born This Way was nominated for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program. In addition, two episodes were nominated for Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program.

The show documents real life as John continues to pursue his dream of becoming a rap artist and entertainer, but has a lot of life skills to master before he is ready to live on his own.

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#PwDsVote Summit Live on C-SPAN 2, Follow Along From Home

As RespectAbility’s Campaign 2016 and People with Disabilities Summit on Enabling Access and Opportunities for All kicks off, viewers at home can join in on the fun as C-SPAN 2 is airing the entire conference live.

The entire conference on democracy and access for people with disabilities will be airing live from 9:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and then again from 1:15 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET. If you don’t have cable, you will be able to see it via their website at the online C-SPAN 2 live events page.

This is a really important breakthrough as a disability voter/access training has never been shown on national television before and 56 million Americans have disabilities. Check out the full schedule and join us for as much as you are able!

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Campaign 2016 and People with Disabilities: Enabling Access and Opportunities for All Schedule

 A Special Summit for Campaign Consultants, Hill Staff and Disability Leaders

August 8, 2016 

9:00 AM – 10:00 AM: Voters with Disabilities and the Issues that Matter: From Employment and Empowerment to Criminal Justice and Beyond – Who are Americans with disabilities, and what do we want?

  • Lauren Appelbaum, Director of Communications, RespectAbility
  • Philip Pauli, Policy and Practices Director, RespectAbility

10:00 AM – 10:45 AM: PANEL – Don’t Forget People with Disabilities: Ensuring Events are ADA Accessible

  • Marian Vessels, Director, Mid-Atlantic ADA Center
  • Rodney Hood, Corporate Responsibility Manager, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • Moderated by Lauren Appelbaum, Director of Communications, RespectAbility

10:45 AM – 11:00 AM: Break

11:00 AM – 11:10 AM: Rep. Brad Sherman Delivers Remarks

11:10 AM – 12:15 PM: PANEL – Campaign 2016 and Beyond: Insights on the Media, Campaigns, Public Policy, the Supreme Court and People with Disabilities

  • Eleanor Clift, Washington Correspondent, The Daily Beast
  • Norman Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute
  • Clarence Page, Columnist, Tribune Media Services
  • Richard Wolf, Washington Correspondent, USA Today
  • Moderated by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President, RespectAbility

12:15 PM – 1:15 PM: Lunch Break

1:15 PM – 2:15 PM: PANEL – Reaching All Voters by Making Electronic Communications Accessible

  • Shelia Newman, President, New Editions
  • Brooke Oberwetter, Manager of External Affairs for Policy, Facebook
  • Cindy Ryan, Executive Management, New Editions
  • Moderated by Doc Sweitzer, Founder, The Campaign Group

2:15 PM – 2:45 PM: Building Electoral Power, One Voter at a Time 

  • Ted Jackson, Disability Outreach Director, Democratic National Committee
  • NOTE: We have invited the RNC to send a representative. 

2:45 PM – 3:00 PM: Break

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM: PANEL – Empowering Americans with Disabilities to Participate in Political Process at the Grassroots Level

  • Justin Chappell, Democracy and Outreach Coordinator, RespectAbility
  • Dahlia Joseph, Former Communications Fellow, RespectAbility
  • James Trout, Policy and Democracy Fellow, RespectAbility
  • Moderated by Ben Spangenberg, the Special Assistant to the President, RespectAbility

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM: AWARDS – 2016 Best in Public Service Awards Presented To (Awardees will Address the Conference):

  • Jack Markell (D-DE), Chair, Council on State Governments
  • Dave Hoppe, Chief of Staff to Speaker Paul Ryan


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On ADA Anniversary, 19 People with Disabilities Slaughtered by Murderer Who Wanted to Eliminate All People with Disabilities

Police officers and rescue workers are seen in a facility for the disabled,Rockville, July 26 – In what is being billed as Japan’s worst mass murder since World War II, at least 19 were killed and another 26 seriously injured.

The attack occurred at Tsukui Yamayuri En centre, a care center for people with disabilities.

Satoshi Uematsu, a former employee at the center, is the prime suspect after surrendering and saying “I did it.”

Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported that the suspect told police: “I want to get rid of the disabled from this world.”

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From Nyle DiMarco to Emmy-Nominated Born this Way and Beyond: Reality TV Leading Way in Busting Stigmas on Disability

Washington, July 25 – This month, A&E’s Born This Way, a show staring people with disabilities, was nominated for three Emmy awards. The show follows seven young adults with Down syndrome as they live, work and love in Los Angeles. Previously it was chosen as one of six honorees for the 2016 Television Academy Honors, an award that recognizes television programming that inspires, informs and motivates.

Earlier, when reality television shows reduced stigmas surrounding disability, it was largely through individuals such as the super talented Nyle DiMarco, who won both America’s Top Model and Dancing with the Stars. A&E’s Born this Way, on the other hand, is fully dedicated to dissolving the stigmas surrounding disability, as cast member Megan Bomgaars’ message “Don’t Limit Me” epitomizes.

“Hey, I have a disability, and I’m OK with it,’” cast member Steven Clark said.

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Finding Dory, Speechless & Born This Way Prove Disability is Winning Theme for Hollywood

Screenshot of Finding Dory showing Dory swimming in the oceanWashington, July 20 – As Hollywood executives are looking for the next big ideas for film and television, they are learning that disability is a winning theme.

Many people are writing about the fact that disability often is absent from mainstream film and television – both the depiction of and, even when a character has a disability, the actor often does not – as detailed in the recently released Ruderman White Paper on Disability in Television.

However, the box office success of Finding Dory and new TV shows such as Superstore and Speechless are showing that audiences want to see strong, capable role models with disabilities.

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