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Actors with disabilities face job discrimination, says SAG study

Aug 1, 2005 -- Performers with disabilities are significantly underrepresented in the entertainment industry "and often reluctant to ask producers for even the most minor accommodations," according to a new study from the Screen Actors Guild released on July 26, the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Less than 2 percent of TV show characters display a disability and only 0.5 percent have speaking roles, said the group in its press release.

Performers with disabilities are more than 50 percent more likely to experience workplace discrimination than Americans without disabilities. Yet they are reluctant to ask for even the simplest accommodation, said the study.

"While more than 33 percent of SAG's performers with disabilities indicate a reasonable accommodation would help them in their work, 60 percent never ask for an accommodation -- even one so slight as having a cane nearby or asking a producer to face them when they speak." The reason for this, said the group, was because performers "fear employers would be reluctant to hire them."

"The ADA was a quantum leap in the right direction, and SAG has been a tremendous advocate," said CSI: Crime Scene Investigation regular Robert David Hall, who chairs SAG's National Performers with Disabilities Committee. "But today we have the first real documentation of what performers with disabilities and their advocates have long suspected: we have far to go to achieve true equality of opportunity."

Little data has existed until now on the experiences and representation of performers with disabilities. The annual Casting Data Report tallies opportunities in film and television by race, ethnicity, gender and age -- but not disability, said SAG, which went on to announce that it a the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers "are jointly petitioning the U.S. Labor Department to permit the expansion of the report to include annual information on performers with disabilities."

"The images we see and the stories we tell say a lot about our society," said Hall. People with disabilities, he said, should be part of that story.

Now available on the SAG website: a PDF file of the Study's Executive Summary. According to the group's press release, the full report will be available on the SAG website in the near future.




Read the EEOC's Primer for Small Business on complying with the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act




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