Actors including Amy Poehler and Naomie Harris have signed an open letter to Hollywood demanding more disability inclusion. The letter, which insists there is an “urgent need to act” discusses discrimination towards disabled talent and suggests a way forward.
The letter and its subsequent #DontDismissDis campaign were put together by actor-turned-agent Keely Cat-Wells, who said that she has previously lost work because of her disability. Cat-Wells is proposing that major studios hire disability officers who can ensure fair and accurate representation and treatment of disabled people, as well as helping with more inclusive hiring practises and opportunities.
“COVID-19 made productions recruit COVID officers and specialists to keep cast and crew members safe so they could keep accessing work, in order to save as many jobs as possible,” she said, per BBC News. “The disabled community have faced threats, lost jobs and dealt with a lack of access long before COVID-19, and unlike this situation, there has been no drastic steps to provide security.” She added:
“The oppression of the disabled community has been swept under the (red) carpet for too long. On a social level we are still fighting for basic equal rights, the same minimum wage, and essential accessibility. Hollywood has the incredible power to shift and shape society.”
The letter explains that the number of disabled characters on screen “continues to severely under-represent the actual US population living with disabilities.” And it adds that, when disabled characters are present, they are not always given a fair and accurate representation.
“Due to years of misrepresentation in the media, social barriers, and chronic ableism, the deaf, hard of hearing, neurodiverse and disabled communities continue to be underrepresented and disrespected in the entertainment industry,” it says.
An accompanying document titled ‘Hollywood Horror Stories’ also details anonymous experiences of disabled people in the industry who have face discrimination and prejudice.
The letter has been signed by more than 80 actors and entertainment industry professionals. You can read it in its entirety online now.