People With Down Syndrome, Frustrated by Voice Devices, Are Teaching Google to Hear Them
FCB Canada and its advocacy client launch Project Understood. This Project Understood from the Canadian Down Syndrome Society is helping Google’s voice platform understand those with Down syndrome. Voice-controlled devices could be life-changing resources for people with Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities, but there’s one obvious obstacle that often holds them back: being understood.
Recently, my sister in law had to take my nephew, who has Down Syndrome, into the dentist and it was not a very good experience for either of them! My nephew has a fear of new people, and can get confused really easily so he did not understand what was going on. My sister in law didn’t know how to explain the situation very well, so they were both upset and scared throughout the entire experience.
I work with Dr. Greg Grillo here at Dentably and when I told him about my nephew’s experience he decided to do something to help my sister-in-law and others who are going through the same thing.
Together, we created a thorough resource guide to help other families with special needs children, teens or even adults who have gone through rough experiences at a dental office. We have also included an option to print this resource guide to share with families, along with a printable guide with questions to ask your dentist before the appointment. There is also a link to a Spanish version on there as well.
Los Angeles, Calif., Sept. 11 – A&E Network’s critically acclaimed and award-winning original docuseries Born This Way’s honors keep adding up – showing that disability is a winning theme. This series starring a cast with disabilities, which received six Emmy nominations this year, won two Emmy’s at Saturday night’s Creative Arts Emmy Awards for Casting for a Reality Program and Cinematography for a Reality Program – after bringing home the Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Series in 2016.
Produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, Born This Way, an unscripted reality show on A&E, follows a group of seven young adults with Down syndrome along with their family and friends in Southern California. Because its focus is on showing their everyday lives, including employment, efforts for independent housing, loves and more, Born this Way breaks down stigmas surrounding disability.
A Focus on Diverse Casting
Casting Director Sasha Alpert holding her Emmy
Born This Way Casting Director Sasha Alpert
Show creator Jonathan Murray, the innovator behind the first-ever reality-show, The Real World, and many other hit shows including Keeping Up with the Kardashians, said the cast members of Born This Way remind all of us that “every individual has something to contribute.”
“In thinking about the show, we wanted to focus on the ability within the disability and I think that is what is exciting to see,” said Murray. “We also are very proud of the fact that our cast is very diverse. Born This Way has a cast that includes people who are African American, Hispanic and Asian. This is a breakthrough for those minority communities as well.”
This is the first year the Television Academy presented an award for Casting for a Reality Program, which Sasha Alpert and Megan Sleeper won for Born This Way.
Bruce and Sean wearing tuxes, posing for the camera. Bruce holding an Emmy.
Cinematographer Bruce Ready with Born This Way Cast Member Sean McElwee
“Everyone experiences powerful stories,” Alpert said. “By not including a diverse group of people, we are limiting our ability to tell compelling stories. If we make television that doesn’t embrace the various populations around us, we limit the narratives we tell.”
Also during Saturday’s first half of the two-night Creative Arts Award presentation at the Microsoft Theater, Bruce Ready, Born This Way‘s cinematographer, took home the Outstanding Reality Cinematography Emmy. The awards on Saturday evening were presented for reality, documentary and animated programs.
Making More History
Born This Way cast members Rachel Osterbach and John Tucker made history when they became the first individuals with Down Syndrome to present at any major awards ceremony when they presented awards in three categories at the Creative Arts Emmys.
Rachel Osterbach and John Tucker posing in a gown and a tux
Born This Way‘s Rachel Osterbach and John Tucker
“Rachel and John graced the stage like true professionals to rousing applause,” said Gail Williamson, a talent agent who focuses on clients with disabilities at Kazarian, Measures, Ruskin and Associates Talent Agency. “When doctors told their parents about the diagnosis of Down syndrome and listed what they thought their children’s future would be like, they never thought to include they would be presenters at the Emmy Awards some day.”
“In an evening that emphasized ‘inclusion’ and ‘diversity,’ it was powerful to have Rachel and John, who both have Down syndrome, included in the diverse group of award presenters,” Murray added.
RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, has been honored to consult during the creation of Born This Way and congratulates the entire team for its hard work in achieving this continued recognition.
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, RespectAbility’s president who herself has a disability and who knows what it means to raise a child with multiple disabilities, said: “I am thrilled that the Emmy’s see the value in showing real people with disabilities and their powerful lives on TV. For generations TV-viewers saw people with disabilities through the lens of the Jerry Lewis telethon. Though it was well intended, it showed people’s inabilities and used a lens of pity. Born This Way is empowering and uplifting. It shows, as one member of the cast frequently says, that the public should not ‘Limit me.’”
Increasing Disability Inclusion in Television
The Ruderman White Paper on Disability in Television shows that disability often is absent from mainstream film and television – both the depiction of and, even when a character has a disability, the actor often does not. According to the report, an actor pretending to have a disability plays more than 95 percent of characters with disabilities. Furthermore, according to a recent report by The Media, Diversity, & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, only 2.7 percent of all speaking or named characters in film were shown to have a disability in 2016 (up from 2.4 percent in 2015). None of the leading characters were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group or the LGBT community.
“By winning the Emmy for casting, A&E’s Born This Way has broken the glass ceiling for people with disabilities of all backgrounds,” Mizrahi added. “Programs like Born This Way that feature people with disabilities, or that tackle disability issues, in a positive light can be successful both critically and financially. Audiences want to see strong, capable role models with disabilities. By focusing on showing these young individuals’ everyday life choices regarding employment, living independently and dating, Born this Way breaks down stigmas surrounding disability.”
Murray agrees that shows like Born This Way and more diversity in Hollywood are good business.
“Hollywood has been really, really slow to recognize the diversity of this country,” he said. “I think it is catching up fast now. And I think it’s realizing that diversity is good business. I don’t think it’s necessarily because it is altruistic. I think they are recognizing that TV shows will do better if they reflect what the country is.”
According to the U.S. Census, one in five Americans has a disability. Currently 70 percent of working-age people with disabilities are not working – even though most of them want jobs and independence. The numbers are even worse for people with Down syndrome. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, there are more than 400,000 people with Down syndrome. Many studies show that people with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, can work successfully and live relatively independently. The individuals on Born this Way prove that since several are productive employees and one is a business owner herself.
“We have a long way to go in how television shows people with disabilities,” Mizrahi said. “For almost five decades, the Jerry Lewis telethon stigmatized people with disabilities by showing what people with disabilities CAN’T do. Now is the time to show what people with disabilities CAN do.”
Recently, Born This Way was chosen as one of six honorees for the 2016 Television Academy Honors, an award that recognizes “television programming that inspires, informs and motivates.”
“By honoring and embracing diversity on television, Born This Way is uniquely redefining the art of honest storytelling and altering the way society views individuals with differences,” Elaine Fontain Bryant, EVP and Head of Programming for A&E said.
“What I would like to see is that more shows have a diversity to them where the diversity is not the point of the show,” Murray added. “I’d like to get beyond the labels to accurately reflect what is going on in our country today.”
Watch the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on FXX on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 8:00 p.m. ET before the highest-profile categories are awarded in a ceremony telecast live on CBS on Sunday, Sept. 17.
The LEAD Center’s Policy Update – Employment, Health Care and Disability provides policymakers, disability service professionals, and individuals with disabilities and their families with information about relevant policy developments regarding Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and related topics, with a focus on improving employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities.
The August 2017 updateincludesinformation about the release of the National Autism Indicators Report from the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute; upcoming bipartisan hearings the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) will hold in September; various ways the government celebrated the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); HCBS transition plan updates; the release of the 2015 Annual Evaluation Report from Mathematica Policy Research; and more. Download the August 2017 Employment, Health Care and Disability Policy Update.
The LEAD Center Policy Update – Employment, Health Care and Disability is a project of the LEAD Center in collaboration with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
Please share this important and timely resource with your network, via social media, etc. Want to share feedback or topics you would like to see addressed in a future issue? Please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gardiner Scholarship helps families customize education plans for their children with special needs.
The Gardiner Scholarship is available for qualified Florida students beginning at age 3 through 22 or high school graduate, whichever comes first. To qualify students must be diagnosed with one of the following: autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, Phalen McDermid syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Spina bifida, Williams syndrome or an intellectual disability (severe cognitive impairment). Also, students who are deemed “high risk” due to developmental delays and who are not older than 5 on Sept. 1 may be eligible for the year they are applying.
The Gardiner Scholarship allows parents to direct their scholarship funds toward a combination of approved programs and providers they think will best meet their children’s unique needs. These include approved private schools, therapists, specialists, curriculum, technology— even a college savings account.
We are currently accepting applications for the Gardiner Scholarship for the 2017-18 school year. Scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. To apply for the Gardiner Scholarship for the 2017-18 school year, please click here.
Please note: Scholarships are awarded to eligible students on a first-come, first-served basis once their applications are completed. Please be sure to advise families early, in order to receive a 100% award scholarship students must be deemed eligible no later than August 1st.
Another option is the Income-based Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC), a program that empowers low-income families to find the K-12 school that best meets their children’s learning needs. Families may choose between two scholarship options: one that helps cover private school tuition and fees, or one that assists with transportation costs to attend a public school in another county. If a family’s household income qualifies for the free or reduced-price school lunch program (185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines), or, if the family receives SNAP (food stamps), TANF, or FDPIR, the student may be eligible.
We are currently accepting applications for the Income Based Scholarship for the 2017-18 school year. Scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. To apply for the income-based scholarship for the 2017-18 school year, families may click here.
Please note: Income-based scholarships for new students are limited. Scholarships are awarded to eligible students on a first-come, first-served basis once their applications are completed. Please be sure to advise families early, as we anticipate going to a waitlist much earlier than usual.
Children who are in foster care or out-of-home care, or who are homeless may also be eligible for either of these TWO scholarships.