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Open Letter to the Entertainment Industry

Monday January 27th, 2020

Changing the Landscape in Casting People with Disabilities

Dear studio, production, and network executives:

The entertainment industry has made strides in prioritizing diversity. At the 2019 Academy Awards, diversity and related topics such as race, immigration, and sexual orientation were explicitly mentioned on stage 38 times. We applaud the industry for elevating these issues to the world’s largest and most glamorous stage.

But in the history of the Academy Awards, among the 61 Oscar nominees and 27 winners playing characters with a disability, only two were authentically portrayed by an actor with disability.

Therefore, we must ask: Why is disability excluded from the diversity conversation? Twenty-percent of the world’s population has some type of visible or invisible disability, making this community the largest minority in the world. Yet people with disabilities are systematically excluded from opportunities for social and economic mobility.

Now is the time to change the conversation. Hollywood can play a significant role in driving socioeconomic progress for people with disabilities. The entertainment industry must embrace disability as a key facet of diversity and can help normalize disability, erasing the stigma that surrounds it.

While many beloved characters have a disability, opportunities for actors with disabilities are virtually non-existent. In fact, research shows that 95 percent of top show characters with disabilities on TV are played by actors without disabilities. Yet it is still the norm for able-bodied actors to play characters with disabilities.

We call on the entertainment industry to increase opportunities for performers with disabilities by taking the following steps:

  • Join the Ruderman Family Foundation Pledge to audition actors with disabilities.
  • Cast qualified performers with disabilities, thereby improving their visibility and expanding overall talent pools.

From greater accessibility and opportunity, talented and high-profile actors with disabilities will emerge. Infusing the industry with this largely untapped source of talent promises to boost box office and network revenues while opening the market to an even broader audience, as evidenced by all previous diversity-oriented initiatives in entertainment.

Hollywood recognizes that it can’t ignore diversity, but still ignores that disability is part of that diversity.

The recommended steps listed above will change the landscape of casting people with disabilities to one of equality and support the industry’s belief that it is truly on the side of diversity. Only then will the entertainment industry finally live up to its vast potential for leadership in diversity, inclusion, social justice, and civil rights.

 

If you’d like to sign our open letter, click here

 

Jason Alexander
Actor, singer, writer, director

Josef Altin
Actor

Robert James Ashe
Emmy-nominated TV & film editor

Shani Atias
Actress, model, humanitarian

Tim Bagley
Award-winning actor, producer, comedian

Carol Barbee
Actress, screenwriter, producer

Robby Benson
Actor, director

Jane Berlinger
Talent manager

Sara Bolder
Producer

Deborah Calla
Writer, producer, CEO of Media Access Awards

Keely Cat-Wells
Producer, actress, CEO

Maleni Chaitoo
Actress, producer, director, disability advocate

Bill Chott
Actor

Glenn Close
Golden Globe, Emmy, and Tony-award winning actor, singer, producer

Michael D. Coffey
Screenwriter, producer

Len Collin
Screenwriter, actor, disability advocate

John P. Conollly
Actor, Former President of AFTRA, Former CEO of Actors’ Equity,

Chris Cooper
Oscar and Golden Globe Award-winning actor

Marianne Leone Cooper
Acclaimed author, actor, screenwriter

Jennifer Court
Producer

Bryan Cranston
Golden Globe, Emmy, and Tony Award-winning actor, director

Brian H. Currie
Academy Award-winning writer, actor

Cherie Currie
Actress, musician, producer

Annabel Norwell Davis
Actress, model

Danny DeVito
Golden Globe and Emmy Award-Winning actor, producer, director, screenwriter

Vincent D’Onofrio
Award-winning actor, producer, director, singer

Ritchi Edwards
Award-winning actor

Nicole Evans
Actress, writer, disability advocate

Bobby Farrelly
Director, producer, writer

Peter Farrelly
Academy Award-winning director, producer, writer

Fern Field
Award-winning producer

Paul Ford
Actor, disability advocate

Micah Fowler
Actor, disability advocate

Mat Fraser
Actor, writer

Mac Gabriel
Actor

Tony Gapastione
Filmmaker

Rodrigo Garcia
Director, screenwriter

Willie Garson
Actor

Cindy Farrelly Gesner
Entertainment attorney

Jason George
Actor, model, Chair SAG-AFTRA’s Diversity Advisory Committee

Angel Giuffria
Actress, model, public speaker, disability advocate

Ewan Gotfryd
Emmy Award-winning director, producer

Zack Gottsagen
Actor, dancer, activist

Sammi Haney
Actress, disability advocate

Shane Hartline
Actor, comedian

Abigail Hawk
Actor, writer, director, singer

Mark Jeffrey Hayes
Actor

Cheryl Hines
Actress, producer, director

Marc Howard
Voice actor

Kevin M. Iannucci
Actor

Geri Jewell
Award-winning actress, comedian, disability advocate

CJ Jones
Actor, disability advocate

Orlando Jones
Actor, comedian, writer

Luke Kidd
Actor

Lars Kolme
Disability advocate

John Lawson
Actor, disability advocate

Norman Lear
Emmy and Peabody Award-winning TV producer

Jim LeBrecht
Director, Producer

Eva Longoria
Actress, producer, director, activist, businesswoman

Krishnendu Majumdar
Producer

Ruth Madeley
Actress, disability advocate

Camryn Manheim
Golden Globe Award-winning actress, disability advocate

Marlee Matlin
Academy Award-winning actress, disability advocate

Glen Mazzara
Producer, writer

Matthew McClain
Actor, veteran, disability advocate

Jillian Mercado
Actress, model, disability advocate

Rachel Miner
Actress

Daryl “Chill” Mitchell
Actor, disability advocate

RJ Mitte
Award-winning actor, disability advocate

James Moore
Actor, disability advocate

Olivia Munn
Actress, activist

Julie Atlas Muz
Actress, director, choreographer

Janis Nelson
General Counsel, Sundance Institute

Nicole Newnham
Director, prodcuer

Edward Norton
Golden Globe-winning actor, filmmaker, activist

Ryan O’Connell
Award-winning actor, comedian, screenwriter, director, producer, LGBTQ+ & disability advocate

Pauley Perrette
Actor, writer, singer, civil rights advocate

Jonah Platt
Actor

Emily Prior
Actress, disability advocate, model

James Rath
Director, disability advocate

Mark Ruffalo
Actor, director, activist

June Schneidmond
Actress, disability advocate

Tony Shaloub
Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-winning actor

Lin Shaye
Actress

Cole Sibus
Actor

Jamie-Lynn Sigler
Award-winning actress, singer

Lauren “Lolo” Spencer
Actress, model, disability advocate

Shoshannah Stern
Actress, creator

Ali Stroker
Tony Award-winning actress, disability advocate

Marlee Talkington
Actress, disability advocate

Lorna Tucker
Writer & director

Josh Vadell
Disability advocate

Charles Venn
Actor

Steve Way
Actor, disability advocate

Steven Weber
Actor

Peter Wilderotter
President & CEO, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

Roy Wol
Award-winning producer & editor

Danny Woodburn
Actor, comedian, disability advocate

Kurt Yaeger
Actor, producer, director, model, disability advocate

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