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Hollywood urged to appoint disability officers

Naomie Harris
Naomie Harris Image credit: nbcnews.com

Hollywood A-listers have come together campaigning for the film industry to be more open to disabled talent to be involved in the film industry by appointing permanent disability officers.

Over 80 actors and industry figureheads including Jessica Barden, Naomie Harris (pictured above) and Amy Poehler have signed an open letter calling for an "urgent need to act on disability inclusion".

The document reads: "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."

According to a study conducted in 2020 just 3.5 per cent of television characters in the US have a disability.

The #DontDismissDis campaign was launched by agent Keely Cat-Wells who was dropped from her acting role because she had a disability.

Cat-Wells told the BBC: "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.

"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."

The campaign asks for the entertainment business to introduce disability officers who would "make fundamental changes to dated practices" by giving decision-makers "the confidence to include, talk about and portray disability".

Harris, who signed the letter, "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 co-inside with the campaign disabled actors have shared the prejudice and discrimination they have been exposed to trying to make their name in the industry.

A document titled Hollywood Horror Stories published a piece from one particular actor who revealed: "I was asked to audition where the audition room was up a flight of stairs with no elevator, the role specifically asked for someone who was disabled to play the role."

Author of Friend’s Guide To Adulting, Samantha Mannis lost her job a well-known Hollywood studio when she had a hospital stay related to her disability.

She said: "I had done my job, and spent thousands of dollars of my own money on Uber rides, and designer clothes so that I could fit in," she said. "After fighting to get discharged from hospital so I could make it to my call time, they told me, 'This just isn't a good fit.'"

Cat-Wells, who now runs C Talent which represents disabled talent, said: "Hollywood has many horror stories, the ones least told are those of the disabled community fighting to get seen, heard, and treated as equals.

"Hollywood needs to remove old and oppressive systems; this is not just about disabled actors, it's about all jobs in the industry, there should be people with disabilities in every role from entry level to head office, the CEO and beyond."

One of C Talent artists is CJ Jones who worked on movies such as Baby Driver and the Avatar franchise.