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Although quadriplegic filmmaker Crystal R. Emery’s resume includes productions of more than 20 plays, two film documentaries and her own nonprofit production company, she said there’s still a ways to go for those with physical and mental disabilities to be able to express themselves creatively.
Emery, of New Haven, Connecticut, who worked as a production assistant on the 1991 film “A Rage in Harlem,” said it’s even worse in Hollywood.
“What really frustrates me to no end [is] when I see women with fewer credentials, far less qualifications [and] less experience hired for jobs in the wake of the #MeToo movement that I can do in my sleep,” Emery said to dozens in attendance during a discussion panel in Southwest on Monday, July 30.
RespectAbility, a Rockville, Maryland-based nonprofit organization, led the daylong conference, titled “From Washington to Hollywood and Beyond: The Future of Americans with Disabilities.”
Although the group doesn’t lobby to local, state and federal lawmakers, it seeks to educate the public about how to advance opportunities and combat stigmas of those with disabilities.
Although the U.S. Census Bureau notes nearly 383,500 more people with disabilities found employment two years ago, compared to 87,200 the previous year, advocates said more work needs to be done.
The talks at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill not only focused on the lack of representation in film and other media, but also education, employment and advocacy in Washington.
Judith Creed, who founded the Judith Creed Horizons for Achieving Independence nonprofit organization in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, advised Hagen and other young adults to always speak up.
“You’ve got to advocate for yourself,” she said. “No one’s going to do it for you.”
The future advocacy for those with disabilities will be a continued push for racial justice for Blacks and the LGBTQ community.