Amy Poehler and Naomie Harris among stars calling on Hollywood studios to hire disability officer

An open letter sent to production companies this week details how the industry can improve disability inclusion and representation

American actress Amy Poehler, left, and British actress Naomie Harris are among a number of people who have signed a letter urging Hollywood production companies to be more inclusive. EPA
American actress Amy Poehler, left, and British actress Naomie Harris are among a number of people who have signed a letter urging Hollywood production companies to be more inclusive. EPA

A number of Hollywood stars, including Amy Poehler and Naomie Harris, have signed an open letter to Hollywood studios asking all motion picture companies to hire a disability officer within their leadership teams.

Signed by more than 80 names, the letter was sent to studios on Wednesday. It was drafted by entrepreneur and disability activist Keely Cat-Wells.

Cat-Wells is the founder of C Taste, an agency in Los Angeles that represents artists and athletes who have disabilities.

While there have been many calls in recent years for the film industry to become more inclusive and diverse as a whole, the letter acts as a reminder of disability inclusion in particular.

"Due to years of misrepresentation in the media, social barriers and chronic ableism, the deaf, hard of heading, neurodiverse and disabled communities continue to be underrepresented and disrespected in the entertainment industry," the letter says.

"Disabled people make up the largest minority group in the world – one in four people are living with a disability."

A 2020 report by media monitoring organisation GLAAD found that the number of series regulars on TV with a disability sat at 3.5 per cent, a percentage that does not represent the real number of people living with disabilities around the world.

Efforts have been made in the past to bring this issue to attention. In 2019, a similar letter highlighted that among the 61 Oscar nominees and 27 winners playing characters with a disability that year, only two were portrayed by an actor with disability.

However, this new letter breaks down what such an officer would do and what his or her responsibilities would be.

"A disability officer’s purpose is not just to prevent on-screen mistakes, but to advance the seamless integration of the disabled community in all areas of an organisation and make fundamental changes to dated practices," the letter says.

Actress Harris, who co-signed the letter, sais: "If you show the injustice of the system and say, 'Look, here's a way forward', it makes it more difficult for people to ignore."

To read the letter in full, click here.

Updated: April 8, 2021 05:32 PM

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