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Boston, MA. April 20th 2021 — The Ruderman Family Foundation, an international leader in advocating for the inclusion of people with disabilities in entertainment and throughout society, today announced that it has approved a $1 million grant to the Academy Foundation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for an initiative that champions new perspectives on filmmaking and film history as well as an accessible and equitable experience for audiences of all backgrounds.
The grant funding will support three main avenues of diversity and inclusion across the Academy’s activities, programming and educational services. These include inclusion and accessibility initiatives at the new Academy Museum and support for an Academy Film Archive cataloging project that serves an audience of scholars, researchers, and related cultural and social communities. Further, the funding will help Academy Gold Rising, an internship enhancement program for college-age students and emerging professionals from communities underrepresented in the film industry, expand this summer’s virtual learning environment. In addition, similarly to last year, the foundation will support the public programs of the Academy leading up to the Oscars® ceremony.
“We are proud to commit one million dollars to spark progress toward the goal of creating a more inclusive landscape in entertainment that champions diversity in all its forms, including people with disabilities,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “This ambitious partnership promises to move Hollywood a significant step closer to the day when authentic representation and ample opportunities for actors with disabilities are the industry norms.”
Content and accessibility services will be funded at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which is scheduled to open in September 2021. The content includes a regular film screening series of works made by and about people with disabilities or which document and capture the realities and perspectives of individuals and/or communities with disabilities, an annual public program, and exhibition highlights featuring films by and about people with disabilities. The museum’s accessibility offerings include year-round programs and visitor experiences that will ensure participation from visitors of all abilities, including an American Sign Language (ASL) tour on the museum app, and increased accessibility for the museum’s website and mobile app.
Bill Kramer, Director and President of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, said, “We are grateful to the Ruderman Family Foundation for making the Academy Museum a part of its indispensable mission of promoting inclusion, visibility, and accurate representation of people with disabilities. It’s crucial to us that the Museum be welcoming and accessible to all, in everything from the services we provide the public to the programs and film screenings we offer. With the help of this generous and far-sighted grant, we are advancing toward that goal.”
The new grant marks the latest partnership between the Ruderman Family Foundation and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This includes previous support for the Gold Rising program to ensure that aspiring young filmmakers with disabilities and from other diverse communities are afforded opportunities in the entertainment industry, and support for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ public programs.
Christine Simmons, Academy COO and to whom the Office of Representation, Inclusion and Equity reports, said, “The Ruderman Family Foundation’s generous support will help continue and expand important Academy initiatives aimed at increasing inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the filmmaking industry. By working together, we can create more opportunities to amplify the voices of people with disabilities, share their stories and increase inclusion both in front of and behind the camera.”
In recent years, the Ruderman Family Foundation has undertaken a comprehensive campaign to bring about greater inclusion and authentic representation in Hollywood. NBCUniversal recently adopted the Foundation’s guidelines to open auditions to actors with disabilities for each of its new film and television productions. CBS Entertainment made a similar commitment in 2019.
Last year, the Foundation released a white paper showing that half of U.S. households want accurate portrayals of characters with disabilities, and despite that, only 22% of characters with disabilities are authentically portrayed on television. On an ongoing basis, the Foundation certifies movies and shows with its Seal of Approval for Authentic Representation, awarding those productions which demonstrate a commitment toward full inclusiveness in popular culture by casting actors with disabilities in roles that portray disabilities.