Leading Jewish and Israeli organization, the Ruderman Family Foundation, on Friday announced that NBCUniversal has joined its call committing to audition actors with disabilities with each new studio production. The major media and entertainment company’s commitment continues the Foundation’s campaign to improve the portrayal of disabilities in entertainment and increase the number of roles that cast actors with disabilities.

“NBCUniversal remains committed to creating content that authentically reflects the world we live in and increasing opportunities for those with disabilities is an integral part of that,” said Janine Jones-Clark, Executive Vice President, Inclusion – Talent & Content, Film, Television & Streaming, NBCUniversal. “We are proud to join the Ruderman Family Foundation pledge as calls to action like theirs are important and hold the industry accountable of the work we still need to do in order to see systemic change.”

The Ruderman Family Foundation’s guidelines reads:

  1. We recognize that disability is central to diversity, that the disability community comprises one of the largest minority groups in our country, and that people with disabilities face exclusion in front of and behind the camera.
  2. We understand that increasing auditions, no matter the size of the role, is a critical step towards achieving inclusion in the industry.
  3. The company will continue to increase the number of auditions for actors and actresses with disabilities in television and film.

NBCUniversal’s commitment to authentic representation has previously been demonstrated in shows that include the likes of “Gone,” “New Amsterdam,” “Rise,” “Chicago Med,” “Law and Order: SVU,” and “This is Us.” The latter has received the Ruderman Seal of Authentic Representation in November 2020.

“The Ruderman Family Foundation is thrilled to see NBCUniversal commit to our guidelines and dedicate themselves further to casting people with disabilities in their productions,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “By having such an influential entity like NBCUniversal take this bold stand, we hope to continue to see others join us in striving to create more opportunities for people with disabilities in entertainment.”

Over the past five years, the Ruderman Family Foundation, which has offices in Boston and Israel, has spearheaded an effort to change the landscape in Hollywood for people with disabilities. September’s announcement from the Academy Awards on new inclusion requirements for Best Picture, follows a partnership with the Foundation earlier this year to ensure that aspiring young actors with disabilities are able to get a head start in the entertainment industry.

In addition to garnering the support of major studios, a separate Foundation-initiated pledge was signed by a host of A-list actors and directors which called on studio, production, and network executives to pledge to create more opportunities for people with disabilities. Among those who signed the pledge were Oscar winners George Clooney and Joaquin Phoenix, Oscar nominees Ed Norton, Bryan Cranston and Mark Ruffalo, actors Glenn Close and Eva Longoria, and Oscar-winning director Peter Farrelly. In July, the Foundation partnered with Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer on a public service announcement calling on the entertainment industry again to increase the casting of people with disabilities, and earlier this month honored Taraji P. Henson with its 2020 Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion.

In 2019 the Foundation released a white paper showing that half of U.S. households want accurate portrayals of characters with disabilities, and despite that only 22% of characters with disabilities are authentically portrayed on television. The Foundation has also been certifying movies and shows with its Seal of Approval for Authentic Representation, awarding 20 recipients with the Seal thus far. As a result of the Foundation’s tireless work in the industry, it was honored with the SAG-AFTRA Disability Awareness Award at last year’s Media Access Awards.

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