It’s an utterly embarrassing truth that Hollywood has failed to respond to demands for diversity, fairness and inclusion on screen and behind the scenes, especially for actors and creators with disabilities. In an open letter to the entertainment industry from Keely Cat-Wells, CEO of C Talent and disability activist, co-signed by Amy Poehler, Naomie Harris and dozens of top stars – the time has come for Hollywood to honestly reflect the company, and the #DontDissDis campaign requires all major film companies to hire a permanent “Disability Officer” on management teams.
“In my personal experience, I didn’t understand or realize what ableism in entertainment was until I witnessed it,” Cat-Wells writes on C Talent. “In 2017, I booked an actor role in a project produced by a leading company in the industry. I went to the fitting room where they made me try on a low rise bikini, which revealed my ileostomy bag. The next day, I received an email saying that I no longer had the role. They said I was “too off-putting” to the audience and that it would be “too confusing”, that could easily have been “fixed” with a high waist bikini. This type of prejudice and discrimination is not an isolated event. In short, I lost a job because of my disability. It changed my career path, not because they made it clear that they thought I didn’t belong, but because I was bogged down and ready to change the broken system that they were getting into and out of. perpetuate without knowing it. I am in the trenches daily as promises are made, but inequitable systems remain in place.
“When businesses realize that their campaign or project performed best when they implemented accessibility and inclusion, it proves that accessibility should be seen as an opportunity rather than a problem to be solved. I think accessibility is the first major step towards a more inclusive and Hollywood reflective world. The success of films like Black Panther, Peanut Butter Falcon, Wonder woman, and coco proves that diversity wins. Creating a diverse environment on stage, in front of and behind the camera will influence the world we live in. “