LOS ANGELES, Jan. 22, 2019 — Easterseals Southern California, a nonprofit organization providing disability services, is proud to announce its partnership with Sundance Institute. As an Allied Partner, Easterseals will host “Abilities Unlimited: The Real ‘D’ in Diversity” at the Sundance Film Festival, a panel that calls attention to the need for persons with disabilities to be included in diversity and inclusion conversations within the film industry. Additionally, Easterseals is working with Sundance Institute to be the go-to resource for filmmakers and actors with disabilities, helping to make the annual Festival more inclusive and accessible.

Taking place on Saturday, January 26, from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., “Abilities Unlimited: The Real ‘D’ in Diversity,” unites actors with disabilities and decision makers from their recent films to discuss the process, challenges and takeaways from the experience. The panel will include Alice Austen (writer/producer, Give Me Liberty), Lolo Spencer (actor, Give Me Liberty), Millicent Simmonds (actor, A Quiet Place) and Maribeth Fox (casting director, A Quiet Place). The panel will be moderated by Smita Pillai, chief diversity and inclusion officer of Dow Jones. Media interested in attending the panel should RSVP to Melissa England, melissae@finnpartners.com, to reserve a spot.

Abilities Unlimited: The Real "D" in Diversity Panel

The disability community, which makes up 25 percent of the U.S. population and $21 billion in discretionary income, is represented in less than three percent of on-screen roles. It is time for Hollywood to take the opportunity to capitalize on new, authentic stories and reach a large segment of the marketplace by including people with disabilities in their content.

“At Easterseals, we understand the importance of representation and the impact that seeing someone like yourself on television or in the movies can have on a person, especially in underrepresented communities such as people with disabilities,” said Mark Whitley, CEO, Easterseals Southern California. “We are pleased to bring this conversation to light at the Sundance Film Festival in hopes of broadening the awareness that people with disabilities have the talent, passion and determination to be a part of the entertainment industry, just like anyone else. We thank Sundance Institute for being a great partner in this endeavor and for making great strides towards inclusion for all.”

With Easterseals’ vision of building a more inclusive future for the more than 61 million Americans with disabilities, the organization is working with Sundance Institute to increase accessibility for filmmakers, critics, and film enthusiasts with disabilities at the festival. As a result:

– Sundance Institute installed an elevator in its Filmmakers Lodge on Main Street

– Some Festival Panels were moved to the Kimball Art Center, a one-story building that is easily accessible for wheelchairs

– Sundance Institute added over 20 percent more passes for critics from underrepresented backgrounds, including women, persons of color and persons with disabilities. Travel stipends were also provided to 50 of those underrepresented critics.

For persons with disabilities attending the Festival, all Park City Transit buses are wheelchair accessible, free and stop at every Festival theater and venue. Bus drivers are trained to provide assistance to those who may need it. For more information about accessibility at the Festival, visit the Sundance Institute website. For more information about Easterseals and the work it does to support the disability community, visit www.easterseals.com and www.wecelebrate.org.

ABOUT EASTERSEALS SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA For 100 years, Easterseals has been an indispensable resource for individuals with developmental disabilities or other special needs and their families. The services provided by Easterseals Southern California (ESSC) – in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Imperial, Kern, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties – make profound and positive differences in people’s lives every day, helping them address life’s challenges and achieve personal goals so that they can live, learn, work and play in our communities. With 2,800+ employees, 60+ service sites and hundreds of community partnership locations, ESSC assists more than 13,000 people, providing adult/senior day services; autism therapy; child development/early education; employment services, veteran employment support; independent living options; and more. At Easterseals, 88% of our income is spent on services. Join us in changing the way the world defines and views disabilities at easterseals.com/southerncal and WeCelebrate.org.

Media Contact: 
Melissa England