It's a glaringly embarrassing truth that Hollywood has not caught up with demands for diversity, equity, and inclusion on screen and behind-the-scenes, especially for actors and creators with disabilities. An open letter addressed to the entertainment industry by C Talent CEO and disability activist Keely Cat-Wells — which was cosigned by Amy Poehler, Naomie Harris, and dozens of high-profile stars — states it's time for Hollywood to honestly reflect society. The letter calls for all major motion picture companies to hire a permanent "Disability Officer", and asks people to use the #DontDismissDis hashtag to spread awareness.
"From my personal experience, I didn't understand or realize what ableism in entertainment was until I was witness to it," Cat-Wells wrote on the C Talent website in explaining the motivation behind the open letter. "In 2017, I booked an acting role in a project produced by a leading company in the industry. I went to the fitting where they had me try on a low-rise bikini, which revealed my Ileostomy bag. The next day, I received an email saying that I no longer had the part. They said I was 'too off-putting' to the audience and it would be 'too confusing', this could have easily been 'fixed' with a high-waisted bikini. This type of prejudice and discrimination is not an isolated occurrence. In short, I lost a job because of my disability. This changed my career path, not because they had made it clear that they thought I didn't belong, but because I was fired up and ready to change the broken system in which they engage and perpetuate unknowingly. I am in the trenches daily while pledges are being made, yet inequitable systems stay in place."
She added: "When companies realize that their campaign or project did better when they implemented accessibility and inclusion it proves that accessibility should be taken as an opportunity rather than seen as a problem to solve. I believe that accessibility is the first major step to a more inclusive and world reflecting Hollywood. The success of films like Black Panther, Peanut Butter Falcon, Wonder Woman, and Coco proves that diversity wins. Creating a diverse environment on stage, in front of, and behind the camera will influence the world we live in."