Statements & Press Releases

Statements & Press Releases

Statements Press Release

RFF Praises the Oscars for Disability Inclusive Ceremony

February 10, 2020

For Immediate Release

Ruderman Family Foundation Praises First Oscar Presentation by Actor with Down Syndrome


Boston, MA — The Ruderman Family Foundation, a leading disability rights organization, lauded tonight’s landmark event of having an actor who has Down syndrome present an award at the 92nd Oscars ceremony.

Zack Gottsagen, star of “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” presented an award with Shia LaBeouf for Best Live Action Short Film, which was won by “The Neighbors’ Window” and director Marshall Curry. This marks the first time that an actor who has Down syndrome has presented an award at the Oscars.

“For nearly a century, disability has been glaringly left out of the conversation on diversity in Hollywood. Tonight’s award presentation marks a substantive step forward for both the Academy and the entertainment industry as a whole,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “It is our sincere hope that this milestone serves as a springboard for greater inclusion in Hollywood, including through increased authentic casting of actors with disabilities in disability-based roles, and able-bodied based roles.”

The Ruderman Family Foundation’s ongoing efforts have served as a catalyst for advancing the needs of the historically underrepresented community of people with disabilities in film, media, theater and other artistic platforms.  Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo, Glenn Close and Eva Longoria are among the notable actors who have signed the Foundation’s recent open letter which calls on Hollywood executives to create more opportunities for people with disabilities. The Foundation has also partnered this year with the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences on its public programming during Oscar Week (February 4-9).

After a groundbreaking study conducted by the Foundation in 2016 discovered that an astonishing 95% of top show characters with disabilities on TV were played by actors without disabilities, the organization called on major studios to sign its pledge to commit to auditioning more actors with disabilities, with CBS becoming the first studio to sign last year.

In a new study released earlier this month exploring 284 shows across 37 television networks and four streaming platforms during 2018, the Foundation revealed the entertainment industry’s progress on authentic casting since 2016. According to the study, 22% of all characters with disabilities on network television were portrayed authentically by an actor with the same disability, while 20% of characters with disabilities were authentically casted on streaming services.

Having been honored at the Media Access Awards in November with the SAG-AFTRA Disability Awareness Award, the Foundation was last month an official partner of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, which featured the event’s first-ever public prioritization of the issue of disability inclusion.

About the Ruderman Family Foundation

The Ruderman Family Foundation is an internationally recognized organization that advocates for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in our society. The Foundation supports effective programs, innovative partnerships and a dynamic approach to philanthropy in advocating for and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the U.S. and the world.

The Ruderman Family Foundation believes that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing community and imposes these values within its leadership and funding.

For more information, please visit

Stay Included

To stay up to date on our most recent advocacy efforts, events and exciting developments, subscribe to our newsletter and blog!