Hollywood, CA - Out of the 352 Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars awarded since the Academy Awards began, only three have gone to actors with disabilities. This stark lack of representation is particularly concerning considering that 1 in 5 people in the United States live with a disability. abilityEntertainment (abilityE) aims to make a positive change in this regard.
abilityEntertainment (abilityE), an online resource connecting disabled actors, musicians, comedians, and more with studios and casting agents, launched on February 1st. The site was created by ABILITY Corps, a non-profit organization run by people with disabilities. The goal of abilityE is to increase the visibility of people with disabilities in the entertainment industry and to provide a platform for disabled talent to be discovered and hired for roles that authentically represent them.
The launch of abilityE was prompted by the success of ABILITY Corps' collaboration with Netflix during the casting process for "The Healing Powers of Dude." The streaming giant was determined to find a young girl who authentically uses a wheelchair for the role of Amara. After struggling to find the right talent from the dozen actors who auditioned, Netflix asked for help from ABILITY Corps and ABILITY Magazine. As a result, hundreds of disabled actors were given the opportunity to audition, ultimately leading to Sophie Kim being cast as Amara.
The benefits of enhancing the visibility of people with disabilities in the entertainment industry extend far beyond the individual. According to the United States Census Bureau, nearly one-quarter of U.S. residents, or 61 million people, have a disability. However, less than 2% of words spoken on TV are by a person with a disability. Furthermore, 95% of top TV show characters with disabilities are played by non-disabled performers. Now, with the support of media giants such as Warner Bros. Discovery, DreamWorks and Disney during abilityEntertainment's beta phase, those statistics are likely to see improvement.
Lia Martirosyan, co-founder of ABILITY Corps, emphasized the importance of spotlighting this demographic in the industry, stating, “It’s time for authentic representation to become standard in the industry. Our hope would be to have all major studios join us as sponsors in this important movement.”
The site currently has over 2,500 profiles of disabled talent that can be searched by age, disability, union status, skill-set, and more. It is free for talent with disabilities to use and is open to vetted studios and casting professionals.
Notable allies of the movement include:
– Jason George, SAG-AFTRA Diversity Chair, who believes that increased visibility in the media creates a more aware society of people with disabilities, and in turn, generates opportunities in every area.
– Fern Field, an Oscar-nominated and Emmy award-winning producer, shared that accurate and inspiring portrayals of people with physical challenges can change all of our lives.
– Marlee Matlin, an Oscar Award-winning deaf actress, spoke about the importance of their in the industry. She is optimistic that the inclusion of people with disabilities is coming back into focus again, but still finds that she has to talk about how important it is to receive the recognition they deserve.
abilityEntertainment's launch is a groundbreaking step towards creating a world of inclusion and awareness for people with disabilities in the entertainment industry. Increasing the visibility of disabled talent, including those with physical challenges such as Cerebral Palsy, Neurodivergence, Spina Bifida, Autism, DEI, Bipolar Disorder and those who are blind and/or deaf can help break down unconscious bias towards people with disabilities and foster a more cohesive society.
abilityEntertainment’s online resource is available globally. Importantly, only talent/individuals with disabilities can upload their profile to the site. The site is open to disabled actors, musicians, comedians, and more, not just actors with disabilities. Their hope is to create a world of inclusion and awareness for people with disabilities — through art, media, housing, employment, and volunteer opportunities.
Visit https://abilitye.com for more information. It is sure to provide an invaluable talent resource for entertainment industry professionals.
abililtyEntertainment (abilityE) was developed in 2021 as a resource for actors & performers with disabilities to connect with casting professionals and studios. Free to the actors and performers, the site has thousands of searchable profiles available to participating studios and casting agents on a subscription basis.