RespectAbility, a non-profit organization committed to combating the stigmatization of people with disabilities, has announced participants for its fourth annual lab for entertainment professionals with disabilities.
The lab, now in its fourth year, aims to develop young people with disabilities by connecting them with leaders and creatives working in film, television and streaming. Lab graduates currently work for Disney, Netflix, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, Showtime and more.
After two years of virtual labs, the six-week program returns with both an in-person and virtual edition, the latter for those for whom the in-person option is not available. Participants include people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental and other health conditions.
The following fellows will take part in the full-time laboratory this year: Abigail Bruli, Isla Harrison, Crystal Garcia, David Bornstein, Eden Hadad, Emily Timmerman, Erica Ellis, Jackie Todd, Jacqueline Gerdn, Jeremy Hsing, John McDonough, Lonzo Bentley, Monique Moreau, Morani Kornberg, Peter Lee, Roma Murphy, Scott Jones, Sheridan O’Donnell, Sophie Lebow and Vanessa Pegram. (Virtual lab members will be launched later.)
“The Entertainment Lab is a unique program that connects our work in the entertainment industry with RespectAbility’s founding mission of creating more opportunities for people with disabilities who want to work,” said Lauren Applebaum, founder and director of the RespectAbility Lab. “One of the goals of this program is to further develop a talent pool of young professionals with disabilities who want to work behind the scenes. We don’t want anyone to have an excuse that they can’t find a disabled writer, animator, director or any other position.”
“All of these studios hosting lab technicians at their sites provide a level of comfort and familiarity when our graduates return for job interviews,” said Delbert Wetter, co-founder of the lab with Appelbaum. “Moreover, the importance of interaction and information sharing between influential Hollywood executives and decision makers and these incredibly talented professionals with disabilities in an accessible environment cannot be overstated.”
Host companies include Bunim-Murray Productions, DreamWorks Animation, Endeavor, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and The Walt Disney Company, while additional speakers represent Netflix, Nielsen, Warner Bros. Discovery and WGA West.
“I started my career 10 years ago as an assistant, but RespectAbility gave me the opportunity to interview for my first staff writer job because they had direct connections, and I ended up getting the job,” said lab graduate Ashley Eakin. Fellow Shi Mirzai added, “Throughout the RespectAbility Lab, I found a community of like-minded people and allies working towards the same goal of inclusion and representation of people with disabilities.”