NBCUniversal has committed to auditioning disabled actors for each of the studio’s future productions, in an attempt to level the playing field when it comes to disability representation onscreen.
As reported by People, the pledge has been made following a request from the Ruderman Family Foundation, a disability advocacy organization, which is committed to striving for authentic representation.
The foundation’s president, Jay Ruderman, said in a statement via People, “The Ruderman Family Foundation is thrilled to see NBCUniversal commit to our guidelines and dedicate themselves further to casting people with disabilities in their productions.” The statement continued, “By having such an influential entity like NBCUniversal take this bold stand, we hope to continue to see others join us in striving to create more opportunities for people with disabilities in entertainment.”
A 2018 study by the Ruderman Family Foundation revealed, “In 2018, 12% of all characters with disabilities were authentically cast, marking an increase from the 5% representation rate found in 2016.” Hopefully, with pledges from big studios like NBCUniversal, disabled performers will be given access to fairer opportunities to work in the entertainment industry.
Executive vice president of inclusion for film, TV, and streaming, Janine Jones-Clark, said via People, “NBCUniversal remains committed to creating content that authentically reflects the world we live in and increasing opportunities for those with disabilities is an integral part of that. We are proud to join the Ruderman Family Foundation pledge as calls to action like theirs are important and hold the industry accountable of the work we still need to do in order to see systemic change.”
As previously reported by The Hollywood Reporter, in 2019 CBS pledged “to improve disability inclusion in Hollywood,” in response to the Ruderman Family Foundation’s request. As such, NBCUniversal’s announcement is a positive move towards more accurate disability representation in the industry, and hopefully even more studios will follow suit.
However, there’s still a long way to go. According to Forbes, a recent study backed by TV networks in the United Kingdom “found that disabled people make up just 5.2% of the off-screen workforce and 7.8% on-screen.”
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