Ongoing Inclusion Initiatives In Hollywood

Currently, Hollywood’s entertainment industry offers several initiatives to foster inclusion. The first one to name is RespectAbility, a foundation dedicated entirely to tearing down stigmas and advancing opportunities for disabled people. Recently, they came up with an annual summer lab providing workshops, networking opportunities, and mentorship for emerging (and also mid-career) professionals with disabilities. As a result, some of them have gone to work for Paramount, Disney, and Netflix. Plus, the organization’s Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit is a great source of information about terminology, etiquette, and the law. These last items are crucial for the North Hollywood theater scene in which etiquette needs to be followed by attendants and organizers to foster inclusion.

CCP Disruptors Fellowship & Ford and Mellon 
Another great initiative is that of the Center for Cultural Power’s Disruptors Fellowship which aims to disrupt Hollywood’s persistent lack of diverse narratives by allowing unique, diverse voices to be represented on the big screens and theaters. This initiative not only focuses on disabled people but also on non-binary, trans, undocumented, and formerly undocumented migrants too.
Finally, the Ford and Mellon foundations’ Disability Futures is a $6 million program to provide unrestricted $50,000 grants to journalists and filmmakers with disabilities. According to recent news, the foundations will add another $5 million to stretch this initiative’s scope until 2025.
What About North Hollywood’s Live Theater Scene?
Going back to the first example, Danielle Perez, who is a stand-up comedian and actress, regular to North Hollywood’s stages, stated to the media recently that, as a nation-wide touring artist, she often finds problems with the bare minimum disabled people needs: appropriate facilities. In this vein, she speaks about ramps and access as a metaphor for invisibility and the empowerment of a minority.
Speaking of which, actress, dramaturg, and blogger Kate Langdorf, speaks about her adventures going to North Hollywood theaters after moving from Washington as a bittersweet experience. On one hand, she could access a virtually limitless catalog of amazing plays. On the other hand, very few theaters had the needed improvements to make them disabled-friendly, and thus, accessible for her.
Echoing cases like this, the American Theater Organization recently published a post by Alie B. Gorrie, a disabled actress, and disability inclusion consultant that states that most venues speak of “too costly and complicated” plans to turn their facilities into inclusive locations where every theater-lover in the world and disabled actor could enjoy that one-of-a-kind experience. She addresses this issue by saying that it can’t be thought of as an extra but needs to be woven into the fabric of the theater scene.
A great example of how this can be implemented by a theater venue is El Portal in North Hollywood. The facilities within this historic theater include not only disability-friendly accommodation for viewers, but also for actors and actresses. Indeed, it features disability-friendly showers and a lift that goes from the green area and the dressing rooms to the stage. Although there’s still a lot to be done, raising awareness is, for most consultants, the first step of a long road.
How Can Inclusion Initiatives Improve?
Although all of the above is celebrated as good news, there is a lot more to be done according to an open letter presented recently and signed by more than 80 Hollywood personalities. In the letter, the participants highlight the urgency of acting on the inclusion of disabilities such as different cerebral palsy types, blindness, and hearing impairment among others.
Among the numerous facts presented under the #DontDismissDis campaign, the fact that at the 2019 Oscars, 27 winners received the award for playing characters with a disability but only two of them were portrayed by disabled actors can be highlighted. In the light of these stats, what these industry professionals demand from Hollywood are fundamental changes rather than isolated initiatives. For example, some of these demands were as simple as access for actors with reduced mobility in studios and castings. These same principles can be applied to the aforementioned needs of the North Hollywood theater scene as well.
The world is rapidly changing toward a narrative that can include all voices. In this vein, Hollywood, the biggest entertainment industry on the planet, needs to take action in that direction. Although much is being done to support that effort, what professionals and aspirants demand is structural, fundamental changes rather than isolated initiatives.

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Author: nohoarts