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U.S. Access Board Holds Meetings with Members of the Entertainment Industry

May 9, 2024
Source: U.S. Access Board

Each year, the U.S. Access Board visits a city outside of Washington, D.C. to learn about the state of accessibility around the country. During the week of April 15th, the Access Board traveled to Los Angeles, where Members learned about the state of accessibility in the film and television industries, among other topics.

The Board spent an entire day in meetings with representatives of the entertainment industry to understand the accessibility challenges faced by working professionals with disabilities in the industry, as well as the progress that is being made to make productions more accessible. The Board’s meetings were hosted at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has been embarking on its own accessibility efforts.

In roundtables co-facilitated by filmmaker Jim LeBrecht (Crip Camp) and producer Tari Hartman Squire, the Board learned from creatives (actors, writers, directors, and musicians) with disabilities, in addition to casting directors from the Casting Society of America (CSA), CBS Entertainment, Disney/ABC, Lucasfilm Animation, and NBCUniversal, an agent from Arise Talent, and a manager from Whaler/C Talent. The Board learned about authentic casting and writers with disabilities telling authentic stories, along with accessibility issues with trailers, sets, and locations, wardrobe and make-up areas, and employment-related websites. However, the Board also learned about potential solutions: Accessibility Coordinators, Directors of Artistic Sign Language (DASLs), a budget line item for accessibility accommodations, a Central Accommodations Fund, and increased and ongoing educational resources in the industry about working with professionals with disabilities.

The Board also learned from studio, network, and streamer representatives regarding efforts to improve the accessibility of productions and representation of individuals with disabilities, the building of strategic alliances with disability-led organizations, and the use of AI (artificial intelligence) in audio descriptions. The speakers included representatives from Amazon, American Masters, AT&T, NBCUniversal, and Prime Video.

While in Los Angeles, the Access Board visited Nickelodeon and Netflix. At Nickelodeon, the Board learned about the studio’s disability inclusion efforts and work towards greater accessibility for their workforce and visitors. At Netflix, the Board viewed a demonstration of open audio description and captions and spoke with staff regarding the process of developing these accessibility features.

Under its statutory authority to promote accessibility throughout all segments of society, the Board seeks to encourage increased accessibility in the film and television industries, acknowledging the role that these media play in shattering disability myths and removing societal barriers for people with disabilities. Access Board Executive Director Sachin Pavithran summed it up at the opening ceremony of the 2024 SignLight International Film Festival (SIFF), a five-day event dedicated to exhibiting Deaf creativity, authenticity, and accessibility in filmmaking. In his remarks, Pavithran highlighted the importance of disability stories in film as a key to creating attitudinal shifts about people with disabilities that will contribute to fuller inclusion in society.

The next meeting of the U.S. Access Board will take place from July 22 to July 24, 2024, in Washington, DC. Visit the Access Board’s website or sign up for the free subscription to get notified of upcoming Board meetings, webinars, trainings, and other events.

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