port of harlem magazine
Mosaic Theater
The Disabled Becoming More Visible
May 23 – June 5, 2019
chef ivy

“Hollywood and theater are making progress,” says Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility, a nonprofit fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. She shared her optimism as more performers with disabilities take center stage.

On May 15, a new show, “The Employables,” started on A&E. It is building on the success of the multi-Emmy-winning A&E series “Born This Way,” which stars seven diverse people with Down syndrome.

Recently Ali Stroker, the mega-talented Broadway star who uses a wheelchair, received a Tony nomination for best featured actress. This season, the show “Master Chef” includes a contestant with a disability, as does the scripted shows “Speechless” and “9-1-1.”

Film festivals like “SXSW” and “Sundance” are intentionally including disability. Netflix recently launched a breakthrough series, “Special that features a gay man with cerebral palsy. “The Village” on NBC includes a veteran with both physical and mental disabilities.

None of this is happening by accident says Mizrahi. “We already have conducted trainings for ABC/Disney, Netflix, NBC/Universal, PIXAR, and others on disability inclusion. We published the first ever Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit,” she says.

Respectability is consulting on more than 20 television shows and films. This summer it is launching an unprecedented summer lab program, June 18 - July 18, 2019, for entertainment professionals.

The five-week, nine-session summer lab program is for people interested in development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators, and other production roles. 
What do you call a performer pretending to have a disability? Many in the disability community call this “cripface.”

The advocacy group estimates that 95 percent of the time that disability is shown on screen it is an actor pretending to have a disability. Many in the disability community call this “cripface.”

RespectAbility reports that about 1-in-5 people live with a physical, sensory, learning, mental health, or other disability. Little Chef Ivy, a 11-year-old who has achondroplasia, which causes an average sized torso with short limbs due to the lack of cartilage formation, is one American living with a disability and one of the new break-out stars. 

Chef Ivy says she is happy to have the opportunity to compete on Master Chef.  She continued, “If you put your mind to it, anything can happen, but also know your limits and that’s ok.”

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