EXCLUSIVE: As the needle of diversity and inclusion continues to make a slow and steady progression in Hollywood, the disabled community strive to make themselves known in the industry. In an effort to move the needle, Deborah Calla and Allen Rucker, members of the WGA Writers with Disabilities Committee and Chairs of the Media Access Awards have released “Employing Writers with Disabilities: A Best Practices Guide”.
The guide not only reiterates the importance of representation in film and television but it also informs why writers with disabilities are essential to telling authentic stories. It covers the do’s and don’ts of the interview process, how to make the work environment accessible, and the benefits of casting actors with disabilities.
“On-screen representation helps make positive change by normalizing the existence and relationships of characters with disabilities,” said Calla and Rucker in a joint statement. “Creating these stories and characters that authentically depict disability begins with writers – that’s why it’s essential to bring more diversity into the writers’ room. With this guide, we aim to make it easier for all those involved in story creation and casting to understand how they can take simple steps to be more inclusive.”
The stats show that nearly 25% of the population has a disability but less than 3% of speaking characters in film & television are depicted with a disability. Not only is this group underrepresented on-screen, but the entertainment industry is potentially leaving money on the table by not creating content that includes America’s largest minority group. According to the Americans Institute for Research 2018 report, the total after-tax disposable income for working-age people with disabilities is about $490 billion — and we all know that Hollywood is about the dollar signs.
The news comes after there has been a push for more inclusivity and authentic representation of the disabled community in film and TV. In June, CBS became the first entertainment company to sign the Ruderman Family Foundation’s pledge to commit to auditioning actors with disabilities. In addition, the Ruderman Family Foundation recently honored TV series Ramy and This Close, as well as films, Give Me Liberty and indie breakout The Peanut Butter Falcon with its Seal of Authentic Representation for accurate depictions of people with disabilities.
The Best Practices guide is released ahead of the 40th annual Media Access Awards on November 14 at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. The ceremony will honor the best in disability inclusion in Hollywood.
The guide is available for download on the Media Access Awards website, the Writers Guild of America website and can be read in its entirety by clicking here.