BEVERLY HILLS—On Tuesday, November 1, the Ruderman Family Foundation hosted its first ever Disability Inclusion Roundtable in Beverly Hills. The event was dedicated to the discussion of the lack of opportunities for people with disability in the TV and film industry. Panelists ranging from actors to producers took part in the conversation including Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin, “Breaking Bad” actor, RJ Mitte, Micah Fowler from “Labor Day,” comedian and actor Orlando Jones, producer of “Friends,” Scott Silver, and more.
“We as an industry keep talking about diversity. We know we have a problem but when we start speaking about diversity, disabilities seem to be left out,” said Marlee Matlin.
According to a White Paper Study on Employment of Actors with Disabilities in Television released by the Ruderman Foundation over the summer, “95 percent of television characters with a disability on the Top 10 TV shows are played by able-bodied actors”. The foundation organized the event to change those statistics, states the Ruderman Family Foundation site. The event was presented in two parts: one section focused on the lack of diversity in front of the camera, and the second part focused on representation behind the camera.
When speaking about auditions, Danny Woodburn expressed the issue of audition locations with no access to an elevator for those in a wheelchair. “If I am going to an audition on a second floor with no elevator and it’s for a character in a wheelchair, then there was clearly no intent for calling in an actor with a wheelchair…“It’s a matter of access to employment and that’s also the case in the deaf community and the blind community needing interpreters and readers for their auditions,” said Woodburn.
According to Tony Ruderman, president of the foundation, it is important that people with disabilities are included and not left on the sidelines as Hollywood works to become more diverse.