As networks become more aware of the demand for representation of marginalized communities in their series, one community, in particular, is in need of some shine: those with disabilities. In a landmark move, CBS has become the first entertainment company to sign the Ruderman Family Foundation’s pledge to commit to auditioning actors with disabilities.
A leader in disability inclusion, the Ruderman Family Foundation has been on a campaign to improve the portrayal of disabilities in entertainment, and increasing the number of roles that cast actors with disabilities. They have made a call of action to studios, networks and production companies to make the commitment of auditioning actors with disabilities with each new production picked up to series — and CBS is the first to commit.
“We take pride in our commitment to cast and hire people with disabilities in our productions,” CBS Entertainment EVP, Diversity, Inclusion & Communications Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i said. “We salute the Ruderman Family Foundation for advocating for this very achievable and important goal.”
When it comes to inclusion of the disabled communities in television programming, CBS has already started. NCIS: New Orleans was one of the first series this spring to receive the Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation, for its casting of Daryl “Chill” Mitchell in the role of agent Patton Plame.
“The Ruderman Family Foundation commends CBS for its leadership in becoming the first major media company to pledge to audition actors with disabilities for roles in their productions,” Foundation President Jay Ruderman said. “It is our hope that other major media companies will follow their lead and foster opportunities that will lead to more authentic representation of people with disabilities in popular entertainment. Enhanced visibility of disability on screen will help reduce stigmas people with disabilities face in everyday life.”
The news comes after Ali Stroker won a Tony award for her role in Broadway’s Oklahoma. She made history by being the first actor to win a Tony in a wheelchair.
The Ruderman Family Foundation’s pledge reads:
1. “We recognize that disability is central to diversity, that the disability community comprises the largest minority in our nation, and that people with disabilities face seclusion from the entertainment industry;
2. “We understand that increasing auditions, no matter the size of the role, is a critical step toward achieving inclusion in the industry;
3. “This studio pledges to increase the number of actors and actresses with disabilities who audition for parts in television and film.”