LOS ANGELES: Three Hollywood groups are using a new campaign to fight for equality for people with disabilities.
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG), Actors' Equity Association (AEA), and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) are collaborating on the effort, which is called "I AM PWD" (Inclusion in the Arts & Media of People With Disabilities). The campaign lobbies for equality in auditions and casting, and accurate representation for people with disabilities in media and entertainment. It kicked off with three simultaneous news conferences in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington on October 6.
With the three events, the campaign wanted to demonstrate that it is equally focusing on the entertainment, media, and advocacy aspects, said Pam Greenwalt, communications executive director of SAG. The campaign requests that the industry offers more auditions and parts for people with disabilities, physical access to audition and performance spaces, and accurate representation of characters with disabilities.
"Our main communications goal is to increase equal employment opportunities for performers with disabilities," Greenwalt told PRWeek. "Tactically, one of the ways in which we plan to do that is through a strong grassroots outreach effort to parents, families, and friends of people with disabilities."
Currently, I AM PWD is reaching out to those in the entertainment industry, with a Web site and through events including panels and symposiums. The public awareness phase of the campaign will kick off on January 1, 2009, with the introduction of the campaign's 2009 action plan.
Several actors have been instrumental in the campaign, including CSI's Robert David Hall, who has two prosthetic legs and is the national chair of the PWD Tri-Union Committee.
"He understands this issue from all sides and has been leader in pushing this campaign forward," Greenwalt said. Hall spoke at the Los Angeles press conference, while leaders from all three organizations—Mark Zimmerman (AEA), Alan Rosenberg (SAG), and Roberta Reardon (AFTRA)—were also present at the various events.