Friday, February 16, 2024

Call for Book Chapters: Social Media, Artificial Intelligence, and Disability in the Global South

CFP: Social Media, Artificial Intelligence, and Disability in the Global South

Editors: Tafadzwa Rugoho (PhD), Ngozi Emmanuel (PhD), and Beth Haller (PhD)

Abstract Submission Deadline: 30 April 2024

Social media and artificial intelligence (AI) have become integral parts of modern society, influencing communication, information dissemination, and social interactions. However, the impact of these technologies on people with disabilities has received limited attention. This book aims to explore the intersection of social media, artificial intelligence (AI), and disability in the context of the Global South, with a focus on opportunities, challenges, and strategies for promoting inclusivity and empowerment. The rapid advancement of technology, particularly in the fields of social media and artificial intelligence (AI), has the potential to significantly impact the lives of people with disabilities in the Global South. This intersection presents both opportunities and challenges in terms of accessibility, inclusion, and empowerment. Understanding the dynamics between social media, AI, and disability in the Global South is crucial for harnessing the potential benefits and addressing the potential risks.

The book seeks to provide a comprehensive understanding of the ways in which social media and AI technologies impact individuals with disabilities in the Global South. Some of the key questions that this book aims to answer include: what is the level of exposure and usage of social media among people with disabilities in different countries of the Global South? What are the lived experiences of people with disabilities as social media users in countries of the Global South? How knowledgeable are people with disabilities about AI tools and how do these tools contribute to their independence, for example, AI voice technologies such as Siri and Amazon Echo? In what ways do people with disabilities use social media and AI technologies to navigate ableist societies? Overall, the book seeks to examine both the potential benefits and the unique challenges faced by people with disabilities in accessing and utilizing these technologies in diverse cultural, social, and economic contexts. The book also aims to explore strategies and best practices for promoting inclusivity, accessibility, and empowerment in this rapidly evolving landscape.

Topics of Interest:

Contributors are invited to submit original research chapters addressing, but not limited to, the following topics:

� Accessible Design and User Experience

� The role of AI in the development of assistive technologies that enhance the communication, mobility, and independent living of people with disabilities in the Global South

� Social Media, Disability Activism, and Advocacy

� Addressing Bias and Discrimination

� Digital Divides and Inequities

� Privacy, Data Protection, and Ethics

� Case Studies of Successful Inclusive Social Media Campaigns

� Digital Storytelling and Representation of Disability

� Collaborative Approaches to Accessibility

� Social Media Influencers and Disability Advocacy

� Awareness, exposure, knowledge and usage of AI tools

� AI-Powered Assistive Devices and Accessibility Solutions

� Challenges of Linguistic and Cultural Diversity

� Policy and Legal Frameworks for Inclusive Digital Environments

� Social Media, AI, and Mental Health Support

� Training and Digital Literacy Programs

� Ethical Considerations in AI-Driven Disability Assessment

Submission Guidelines:

Authors are invited to submit an extended abstract (250-300 words) outlining the objectives, methodology, and key findings of their proposed chapter. The abstract should clearly indicate the relevance to the book's theme and the specific topic of interest. Please include the author's bio of less than 100 words and contact information.

Important Dates:

Abstract Submission Deadline: 30 April 2024

Notification of Acceptance: 15 May 2024

Full Chapter Submission: 30 September 2024 

Review and Revision Period: 30 October 2024 

Final Chapter Submission: 20 December 2024

Submission Process:

Please submit your abstract as a word document to also copy . All submissions will undergo a peer-review process to ensure the quality and relevance of the chapters. Selected abstracts will be invited for full chapter submission, which should adhere to the provided formatting guidelines. Should you have any further inquiries, please do not hesitate to contact us at 


Tafadzwa Rugoho (PhD) is currently at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He taught at several universities. He holds several qualifications in the areas of development, health, policy, law, sociology and management. Tafadzwa has authored more than 30 book chapters and scientific papers. He edited a book titled "Media and Disability- A Global South perspective. He coedited two books titled Disability and Intersectionality, Perspectives from the Global South and Sexual and Reproductive Health of Adolescents with Disabilities. Tafadzwa is a disability activist.

Ngozi Emmanuel (PhD) holds a PhD in Media and Communication from the University of Leicester, England and has recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the same University. Her research explores the representation of disabilities in media and the intersection between cinema, ableism, and disabilities in the global south. One of the highlights of Emmanuel’s disability research and advocacy is the production of a toolkit for representing disabilities in television and cinema, which enabled her to further co-produce a Toolkit on-the-go with the Global Alliance for Disabilities and Media (GADIM), a US-based organisation. Emmanuel has received funding from agencies such as the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to fund her research and disability advocacy.

Beth Haller (PhD) is Professor Emerita at Towson University in Maryland, USA. Haller is co-director and co-founder of the Global Alliance for Disability in Media and Entertainment (, which works to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of mass media internationally. Haller’s new book, Disabled People Transforming Media Culture for a More Inclusive World (Taylor & Francis), was published in 2023. Haller is co-editor of the 2020 Routledge Companion to Disability and Media. She is the author of Representing Disability in an Ableist World: Essays on Mass Media (Advocado Press, 2010) and the author/editor of Byline of Hope: Collected Newspaper and Magazine Writing of Helen Keller (Advocado Press, 2015).

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Report uncovers 'systemic discrimination' faced by people with disabilities in Australian screen industry

from ABC News in Australia. Photo of Ade Djajamihardja and his wife Kate. 

As an Asian-born Australian, Ade Djajamihardja is no stranger to discrimination. But when he had his first stroke, he was not ready for the disability that followed.

Mr Djajamihardja had a successful media career, including as an assistant director for  ABC TV, and a happy family life with his wife Kate.

When he woke from his stroke in a hospital bed, he had mobility and vision impairment.

Fear of being a burden

"When I was in rehab hospital, I was being taught how to use my wheelchair for the first time, and quickly became overwhelmed by how that would make me a massive burden to Kate's life," he said.

"And that caused me to realise that I couldn't do that to her."

He felt suicidal until a nurse helped him reframe his perspective.

Now Mr Djajamihardja has his own production company, A2K Media, supporting people with disabilities working in the media and entertainment industry across Australia and Asia.

His company recently collaborated with researchers at the University of Melbourne on a reportlooking at the treatment of people with disabilities in the media industry, which uncovered a range of unique challenges, from poor physical access to discrimination and unequal pay.

Stigma behind pay gap

Melbourne University creative writing lecturer and lead report author Radha O'Meara said the pay gap for people with disabilities was the result of stigma.

"The screen industry has a lot more people employed in precarious contracts than other industries [and] a lot of people talked about how ... they don't even know who to go to, to ask about their pay," she said.

"Most screen companies don't have HR departments."

The report reviewed more than 500 people with disabilities who have worked in the screen industry and found they routinely experienced low payment and precarious job roles — all within a culture of “systemic discrimination” and prejudice.

“These experiences suggest structural problems across the screen industry and its culture,” the report found.

“They reflect a lack of understanding of disability and a reliance on negative stereotypes of disabled workers."

Forced to direct through a monitor

One Melbourne-based film and television director who uses a wheelchair said the biggest problem he had encountered in the industry was physically accessing sets.

"I'm required to kind of direct through a radio looking at a monitor because I can't actually get to the second floor or the third floor… and that's something that nobody seems to know how to fix," he said.

The director, who wished to remain anonymous, said the lack of wheelchair accessible buildings used by Melbourne production companies often prevented him from winning contracts.

"It's less that it's difficult to get a job as a director but it's more difficult to get a job in production," he said.

"Almost none of the post-production facilities are accessible, almost none of the production facilities are accessible … for a TV show, you might need a two or three story production office, and that'll be upstairs and then you're just kind of stuck down downstairs."

'Hesitancy' to hire people with disabilities

Sam Riesel is a young production assistant with an intellectual disability and has worked on both accessible and mainstream sets.

Mr Riesel said his experience in mainstream productions had generally been good, but there was a reluctance in the film industry to hire people with disabilities.

"I do think there is a tiny bit of hesitancy to hire someone with a disability in the industry, but I do also think that the industry has opened up a lot more to all that within the past few years," he said.

Sometimes there is a concern in the industry that a disabled employee will need extra supervision on set.

"And it's like, well, maybe at first a tiny bit, but eventually, once they've been in the industry for long enough, they know how all that stuff works, or at least they should," Mr Riesel said.

'Soft bigotry of low expectation'

Mr Djajamihardja said people with disabilities were often not consulted about what they needed to enable them to work successfully.

He said the industry had a problem with "soft bigotry of low expectation" for people with disabilities, which affected how inclusive it was towards employees.

"I faced [that] while trying to re-emerge back into the industry I love, and the only one I have known my entire adult life," he said.

Dr O'Meara said people often conflated disability with weakness, which created a work culture of discrimination.

And with no-one to ask about making adjustments, no-one is taking responsibility for the issue, according to Dr O'Meara.

"Legally, someone's got to take responsibility," she said.

"But actually, in practice, when you're asking around the place you work, who do I talk to, then everybody goes 'ah, not my problem'."

Hopes report will lead to change

Mr Djajamihardja said he hoped the report would lead to change in the industry, in the same way that he had to change his perspective on disability after his stroke.

"What resonates most about living my life since acquiring my disability and their associated barriers is that while it was the most unwanted and unexpected of life's adversity barriers, it has also proven to be the most undeniable and unstoppable of personal growth opportunities," he said.

Dr O'Meara said non-disabled people had contacted her after reading the report expressing surprise that they had worked with disabled people and not realised it.

"It's just opened their eyes up to the kind of variety of disabled people's experiences," Dr O'Meara said.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

‘Dark Disabled Stories’ review: When the world isn’t built for you

From The New York Times:

Near the start of “Dark Disabled Stories,” the playwright-performer Ryan J. Haddad’s richly provocative new show at the Public Theater, he tells a funny, sexy anecdote about a hookup at a gay bar that didn’t go the way he’d hoped.

Haddad has cerebral palsy and uses a walker. In the story, he finds himself stranded without it — a plot twist that caused his audience, the other night, to breathe a soft sound of sympathy. Haddad must have been expecting this, because his reaction is right there in the script. He invites anyone who regards him as “sad or pitiable” to leave.

“I am not here to be pitied and I am not a victim,” he says. “Is that clear?” Then, with startling sternness, an unscripted repetition: “Is that clear?”

Quite. But one other thing needs to be made clear immediately, which is that Haddad is an actor and writer of extraordinary charm. Disarmingly witty, immensely likable, he is not about to spend his show lecturing you.

He will make you laugh, though. And with his director, Jordan Fein, and fellow actors, Dickie Hearts and Alejandra Ospina, he will change the way you think about disability — and prompt you to think of accessibility as something that can deepen a dramatic experience when it’s built into the architecture of the piece.

The autobiographical stories here — set on buses, or on Grindr dates, or on the pitted streets of New York — are calibrated to blast away condescension and replace it with something closer to comprehension. Partly, they’re about how arduous it can be to navigate a world that’s oblivious to your comfort and safety, because it wasn’t built with your kind of body in mind. But these stories are also about the body as an instrument of pleasure, a vessel of longing, a means of communication.

Presented by the Public and the Bushwick Starr, “Dark Disabled Stories” is a highly theatrical, gracefully layered model of inventive inclusivity. Haddad and Hearts, a Deaf actor who radiates charisma, play parallel versions of a character called Ryan. Haddad speaks the lines; Hearts signs them. (The director of artistic sign language is Andrew Morrill.) The written dialogue is projected, attractively, on the upstage wall.

Ospina spends most of the show just offstage, periodically speaking audio description that is anything but intrusive. When she says that the set is not merely “very, very pink” but in fact “Benjamin Moore’s Island Sunset pink,” this is valuable intel for us all. (Set and costume design are by dots, lighting by Oona Curley, sound by Kathy Ruvuna, video by Kameron Neal.)

Ospina also briefly takes the stage in her wheelchair to tell her own dark story, about what it’s like to be trapped in a subway station with the elevators out. It’s not the only tale that might make you wish, urgently, that the M.T.A. would send a delegation to see this play.

“Dark Disabled Stories” is in the Public’s most accessible theater, the Shiva on the first floor. Yet masks are required at only a few performances each week — the Public’s default policy.

So on your seat before mask-optional performances, alongside your playbill, you’ll find a complimentary mask and a kindly worded note. “‘Dark Disabled Stories’ is a show grounded in disability cultural values. In disability culture, the community practices collective care to protect each other,” it says, asking that you mask up. The night I went, most people did.

The note is signed, “Thanks from the company of ‘Dark Disabled Stories.’” But should the company have had to make that request? Among the takeaways from the play is how enervating it can be to have to plead constantly for access and understanding. A blanket mask requirement for this show would have been a reasonable accommodation.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

'An Irish Goodbye' star James Martin tells aspiring actors with Down syndrome 'don’t let people say you can’t'

From ITV

Note: An Irish Goodbye won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film on March 12, 2023.

A Belfast actor receiving glowing praise for his starring role in new award-winning short film says people with Down's Syndrome with acting dreams should 'go for it'.

James Martin (pictured) stars in black comedy An Irish Goodbye, which has already won the European Audience Award at Leuven International Film Festival in Belgium.

It’s hoped that more awards could follow, after the movie also launched at the Oscar and BAFTA qualifying Leeds Film Festival in November to critical acclaim. 

The new movie is set against the backdrop of a working farm in rural Northern Ireland, and follows the reunion of estranged brothers Lorcan (Martin) and Turlough (Seamus O’Hara) following the untimely death of their mother (Michelle Fairley).

Under the watchful eye of odd-ball parish priest Father O’Shea (Paddy Jenkins), the brothers’ pained reunion takes an altogether different course when they discover their late mother’s unfulfilled bucket list.

James told UTV News he loved working alongside the cast. 

He said: “We had such fun, the atmosphere on set was fantastic.”

James hopes the film will entertain people following a tough couple of years.

”It’s the kind of film, that when you’ve been in lockdown for so long you just want to make people laugh.  That’s why the film is very good and it’s a brilliant story.”

James has already scooped a Best Actor award for his role in the drama Ups and Downs in 2017 and was also praised by fans for his starring role in Season 3 of ITV’s Marcella. 

He keeps in touch with co-star Anna Friel, and said it is great to have her support.

“I don’t see her as an actor, I see her as a person.  I would call her my work colleague. It’s good to have a work colleague like Anna Friel.“

James, who is a Mencap NI Ambassador, is hoping to inspire other young people into acting.

He said “I would say to people who have autism,  Down’s Syndrome or some physical disability, I would say go for it, act your heart out”

"It’s just one of those things, don’t let people say ‘you can’t act’, because you can act. It’s just one of those things in life.”

An Irish Goodbye is the second short film from duo Tom Berkeley and Ross White and is produced by Floodlight Pictures with support from Northern Ireland Screen and BFI. 

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Elon Musk's destruction of Twitter is harming disabled people

Pictured is a Twitter chat announcement from 2019. ID: Graphic with a white background with text: “#DisabilityCivics Twitter Chat, Civic Participation & the Disability Community, May 22, 2019, 4 pm Pacific/ 5 pm Mountain/ 6 pm Central/ 7 pm Eastern, Co-hosts: @LurieInstitute @IntersectedCrip @DisVisibility” On the left is a black Twitter bird and on the right is a computer screen with two caption bubbles coming out."

On October 28, Twitter users woke up to a new reality: Elon Musk had taken over the platform and almost immediately begun making changes. For people with disabilities who’d found an emotional support system on Twitter, anxiety over Musk’s upheaval was especially sharp. Twitter had been one of the most user-friendly social media platforms out there—with a world-class team that made sure it was usable by people who had a variety of different needs. Plus, it’d been a megaphone and a lifeline to the outside world, for those who’d been especially vulnerable during the pandemic and mostly stayed indoors. Everything was now up in the air.

One such user is Stephanie Tait, an author, speaker, and disability advocate who suffers from multiple chronic health issues related to Lyme disease. “There are a lot of people joking about how Twitter going away would be for the best because everyone would go outside and touch grass,” she says. “What’s difficult for our community is that we’re here trying to get people to understand that for some of us, that’s not an option.”

Many users said they’d be leaving. The hashtag #TwitterMigration started trending. But for some people the stakes were higher than for others. For Tait and other users with disabilities, there’s much more at stake on Twitter than a timeline filled with jokes, memes, and news updates. Tait has used Twitter for years to build up her audience as an author and raise awareness about disabilities, and has garnered nearly 37,000 followers in the process.

For Karli Drew, a writer, creator, and activist with nearly 20,000 followers who was born with a progressive neuromuscular disorder called spinal muscular atrophy, Twitter has been the source of a ton of career opportunities. She says that one change Musk already tried to institute—charging $8 a month for verification—was a threat to the livelihood of some users with disabilities.

“There are disabled public figures on Twitter who have already been verified and whose credibility and jobs have come out of that verification,” she says. “They wouldn’t be able to maintain that $8 fee.”

If Musk’s ownership leads to a mass exodus from Twitter, or a potential bankruptcy, which he warned about on Thursday, it could mean a huge loss: of essential social circles, of knowledge sources, and of financial resources for many. And if misinformation takes over and the disabled community doesn’t stay on the platform, those things are lost even if Twitter continues to thrive.

What Twitter means to users with disabilities

When Abi Oyewole began regularly using Twitter in 2019, she was looking for answers. She says she sought out “disability Twitter” while dealing with a number of medical issues, including fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Now, she has over 25,000 followers.

“I was looking for community and finding people like me, who were struggling with their health, really helped me come to terms with my own health issues,” she says. “At the time, it pretty much saved my life because I got some pretty important information. It was quite crucial to have that support and to know others that were going through the same thing.”

Touted as the “world’s largest focus group,” Twitter’s follower structure—you can follow someone without them following you back and vice versa—gives users the ability to both broadcast and access information from all corners of the platform. “Someone who is talking about their experience of living with a disability could potentially be reaching a large and broad audience thanks to the public and asymmetric nature of Twitter,” says Ethan Zuckerman, an associate professor of public policy, communication, and information at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

That has allowed people with disabilities and other marginalized groups that experience discrimination and exclusion to build community in a way that isn’t possible on other platforms, Tait says. “When you have certain kinds of disabilities, especially when you have diagnoses that are not as common, you need sheer numbers to even have the odds of potentially finding somebody with the same condition as you,” she says. “Twitter’s made it a lot easier to find people that you have no connection to at all and say, ‘Hey, we have similar symptoms or similar diagnoses, or you’ve reached a diagnosis and I haven’t, or you have research that you’ve already done and that research is going to be really important to me now.'”

The megaphone effect of Twitter has also made it instrumental for organizing mutual aid, fundraising, and other forms of community care efforts for people with disabilities, Tait says. “If you’re just asking the same people in your immediate circle for help again and again, it only goes so far.” she says. “If you take away Twitter, it’s no exaggeration to say that there will be medical procedures that don’t happen.”

Economically, too, it’s impacting people. Those who struggle to hold traditional jobs have built their entire business models around Twitter’s reach and amplification.

For Oyewole, Twitter has played an essential role in growing the online business that enables her to support herself. “I can’t work most jobs because I’m disabled and by being on Twitter, I’m able to promote my business quite easily,” she says. “Other platforms require you to pay so your work can be seen. But with Twitter, it can gain a lot of reach through support from your followers.”

The factors that made Twitter special

Unique in its ability to amplify marginalized voices, Twitter has become a vital tool for building and sustaining community among vulnerable populations, says Zuckerman.

“For years, people have been finding community on social networks when they have difficulty finding community in the physical world,” he says. “That could be people who are in small minorities in the communities where they’re living or it could be people for whom it’s difficult to access the physical world.”

Just over a week after taking control of Twitter, Musk gutted the company’s accessibility team. That means the work those employees were doing to make the platform accessible for as many people as possible has stopped. For example: adding image descriptions to tweets for people who are visually impaired and updating Twitter’s sounds to help make them pleasing to people with sensory sensitivities.

That’s not surprising to many experts, who’ve noted that Musk’s “free speech” goals seem in conflict with creating a space that’s welcoming to those who are easy targets for trolls and other bad actors.

“Musk’s vaunted commitment to free speech is meaningless if Twitter becomes a place that lets harassers and trolls operate with impunity,” Zuckerman says. “Allowing people to be harassed into silence is as least an effective form of censorship as banning users.”

Musk also cut employees across Twitter’s human rights, product trust and safety, and ethical AI divisions, and platform safety seems to already be unraveling. On Wednesday, Musk took to Twitter spaces to explain how the platform wouldn’t devolve into a free-for-all for imposters and trolls. The next day, the site was rife with fake “verified” accounts, and key privacy and security executives quit.

The cost of leaving Twitter

Some users are quickly leaving the platform. In the days after Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, estimates from research firm Bot Sentinel suggested that Twitter may have lost more than a million users. Bot Sentinel found that around 877,000 accounts were deactivated and a further 497,000 were suspended between October 27 and November 1. That’s more than double the usual number of account losses, according to MIT Technology Review.

Since then, downloads of Twitter alternate Mastodon have skyrocketed, with data analytics firm reporting that Mastodon downloads in the U.S. increased by nearly 5000% during the 10 day period of October 27 to November 5.

But simply switching platforms is not an option for many users with disabilities. “A lot of people are finding support in communities on Twitter,” Zuckerman says. “Having that space go away or having it migrate to another platform where people have to figure out how to rebuild all the tools and infrastructure that they need to use that platform is a huge cost.”

For Drew, losing Twitter would mean losing the social platform that’s most accessible to her. Drew’s spinal muscular atrophy causes muscle weakness. “It takes a while for me to type and I can’t take photos myself, so Instagram and TikTok and other platforms are more difficult for me,” she says. “With Twitter, I can easily say what I want to say without asking anyone for help or using up all my energy and time.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating health and isolation issues for many people with disabilities, Drew says that losing Twitter as a gateway to the world would be dire. “Personally, my following has dropped significantly and I’m already seeing it happening,” she says. “A lot of disabled people are feeling lost because we’re losing that sense of community. We’re a few years into the pandemic and a lot of us are still quarantining, so that’s kind of all we have left.”

The problem with Twitter alternatives like Mastodon and Reddit where users organize themselves into different communities is they are siloed by topic and interest. That could make it hard for the same community to reunite on a new platform, and it would mean that if—for example—people with a particular disability coalesced around a particular online space, their posts wouldn’t have the same broad, universal reach.

“Even if you could somehow magically get all of disability Twitter to move to the same alternative social media platform, we would be siloed in a way where the rest of the world wouldn’t have to see us anymore,” Tait says. “If you push us to a site where we can find each other, but other people don’t have to see us anymore, it’s very dangerous for us because it becomes so much easier to marginalize us and to leave us behind.”

One of Drew’s biggest concerns is that marginalized people will be left to fend for themselves on Twitter if too many people decide to leave the platform. “I don’t blame marginalized people who are leaving because the website could become an unsafe place without moderation and verification based on actual merits,” she says. “But as far as allies go, if we don’t have them sticking around, we’ll have nothing.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Photographers and illustrators with disabilities, Shutterstock is offering monetary grants for work that authentically depicts disabled people


Please share widely!


Photographers and illustrators with disabilities, Shutterstock is offering monetary grants for work that authentically depicts disabled people. Please consider submitting your work.


The Global Alliance for Disability in Media and Entertainment ( has partnered with Shutterstock and the World Institute on Disability ( to offer $50,000 in grants and a guide to increase and diversify portrayals of disabilities in the Shutterstock content library.


Learn more and apply today: 


Shutterstock, in collaboration with GADIM and WID, has also created guidance on portraying disabled people accurately in stock photography, Authentic Portrayals of People with Disabilities Guide. You can download the guide here:


Sunday, May 22, 2022

Netflix launches its first-ever disability collection, ‘Celebrating Disability with Dimension,' expands accessibility features

 From The Verge:

Netflix’s closed captioning, subtitles for deaf and hard of hearing (SDH), and audio descriptions (AD) are all powerful tools designed to help make films and television shows more accessible to people with disabilities. But those kinds of features have also become integral parts of how people from all walks of life consume the streaming platform’s content, and Netflix is planning to give its subscribers more of what they want.

In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Netflix is gearing up to expand its accessibility features across the globe and launching a new collection highlighting stories focused on people living with disabilities. Celebrating Disability with Dimension will function much like the platform’s other special collections that pull from Netflix’s catalog of existing content with the goal of promoting their visibility as users browse the service. In addition to the new collection, Netflix is also beefing up its AD and SDH offerings in more languages, including Spanish, French, Korean, and Portuguese.

When we recently spoke with Netflix’s director of accessibility, Heather Dowdy, she explained how, typically, people’s ability to use AD and SDH have depended on whether the networks airing content took the initiative to provide the features in multiple languages. While shows produced in France like Lupin might have those features available in French, for example, English-speakers hoping to watch the series with English AD or SDH would only be able to do so if that accessibility was prioritized by the platform airing it.

Dowdy said that while providing those features to those who need them is the core of the work she’s done at Netflix, one of the big reasons the platform’s been planning for this expansion is the fact that more subscribers are watching content from across the globe.

“We’re adding more titles because we recognize that folks are finding these inclusive stories all over the world,” Dowdy said. “We have some global hits when you think about with Squid Game and La Casa de Papel, and we want our members and others in other countries to be able to access that content as well.”

Netflix says that 40 percent of its global user base regularly uses subtitles and that people have been watching hundreds of thousands of hours worth of shows like LuciferOzark, and Seinfeld with their audio descriptions turned on. Dowdy, who herself is a CODA, explained that Netflix also worked with members of the disability community to develop more robust AD guidelines meant to make the platform’s approach to accessibility more inclusive.

“Things like race, gender, hair texture, skin tone — things that really bring our characters to life,” Dowdy said. “That’s evident visually, but then we’re able to put that in the audio description as well so that our members are involved in the conversations that we’re having around these characters.”

Netflix’s efforts have paid off with series like Bridgerton, which the platform says is its number one most-watched show or film with subtitles in six countries. But the story’s been somewhat different from other global phenomenons like Squid Game, whose English subtitles came under fire for being woefully inaccurate. Dowdy didn’t specify what steps Netflix plans to take as part of its new initiative to ensure that shows and movies’ original voices are maintained as the streamer localizes them. She did say, however, that the Squid Game situation was a learning opportunity for Netflix that came as a direct result of viewers’ critical feedback.

“If our members with disabilities aren’t even able to access that title and give us the feedback to improve the SDH, then we aren’t serving all of the members the best way that we can,” Dowdy said. “So I think that’s an example of our continuously listening to members and incorporating that feedback to get better, which is something that Netflix is really good at doing.”

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Hallmark to debut romance with lead character who has Down Syndrome


from CNN:

Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is diversifying its content.

The cable channel is set to feature a romance with a lead who has Down Syndrome.
"Never Have I Ever" actress Lily D. Moore(pictured) is set to star in "Color My World With Love" as Kendall, "a talented artist with Down syndrome who creates beautiful paintings in the impressionist style that reflect the reality of her subjects as she sees them."
    Things take a romantic turn when she meets Brad, played by David DeSanctis, in a cooking class.
    Erica Durance, Benjamin Ayres and Karen Kruper also star.
      "Thanks to the support of her mother, Emma (Durance), and grandmother, Bev Kruper), Kendall is happy and thriving," according to a press release provided to CNN. "Her life takes an exciting turn when she meets Brad (DeSanctis) in a cooking class at the local center for diverse learners and romance blooms. Emma has spent the last 22 years trying to protect her daughter and has reservations about Kendall and Brad's new relationship, especially when it quickly moves in a serious direction."
        "Everyone has a dream to fall in love and get married one day, even people with disabilities," Moore said in a statement. "I hope viewers take away that 'Color My World With Love' is about painting your own story through your emotions and that we all have endless possibilities."
          "Color My World With Love" is set to air later in 2022.

          Sunday, April 3, 2022

          Disabled filmmakers demand UCLA amend Hollywood diversity report to document disabled, LGBTQIA+ representation

           From Variety

          Pictured is Anna Dzieduszycka, an actor with dwarfism, who starred in the Oscar-nominated film from Poland, "The Dress."

          UCLA’s latest Hollywood Diversity Report found some improvement in 2022 in regards to hiring women and people of color, but activist group FWD-Doc is demanding that UCLA address other overlooked groups such as LGBTQIA+ individuals and the “invisible minority” — disabled people — in the industry.

          Jim LeBrecht, co-founder of FWD-Doc and co-director of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Crip Camp” (2020), states, “UCLA’s report that stands for promoting diversity is an egregious case of exclusion and perpetuates the misconception that people with disabilities do not exist in the entertainment industry. In light of ‘CODA’s’ three Oscar wins at the recent 94th Academy Awards ceremony, this oversight reinforces FWD-Doc’s assertion that this report is incomplete and not comprehensive.”

          He adds that other groups have been under-represented, such as LGBTQIA+ people, but were ignored in the study.

          The ninth annual report, from UCLA’s Division of Social Sciences, covers the top 200 theatrical English-language releases in 2021, ranked by global box office, as well as all major streaming films based on total household ratings. The study says people of color rep nearly 43% of the U.S. population and will be in the majority by 2050. POC last year represented 38.9% of film leads and 43.1% of all actors, as well as 30.2% of directors and 32.3% of writers.

          Women accounted for 47.2% of film leads, according to the study, and 42.2% among all performers. Women accounted for 21.8% of film directors and 33.5% of writers.

          LeBrecht adds that since UCLA’s report is designed to “explore relationships between diversity and the bottom line in the Hollywood entertainment industry,” it is critical that other demographics be included.

          FWD-Doc demands a public statement that acknowledges UCLA’s oversight and the damage it creates, imploring UCLA to commit to releasing a report on disabled representation, including Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse workers, in the film industry within six months. Additionally, FWD-Doc expects that the UCLA report on representation in television (due in Fall 2022) does not repeat this omission.

          FWD-Doc says there are globally 1.85 billion people with disabilities, holding $8 trillion dollars in disposable income (this jumps to $13 trillion if you include their families), making people with disabilities the third largest economic power in the world — with more than the countries of Japan, Germany, and the U.K..

          Filmmakers with disabilities are key to unlocking these audiences and the org says there are an estimated 500 filmmakers with disabilities and their allies.

          The UCLA report states, “America’s increasingly diverse audiences prefer diverse film content.” FWD-Doc adds that so far there is a dearth of projects related to disabilities, despite audiences’ positive reaction to recent Oscar-nominated and winning films (“CODA,” “Audible,” “Crip Camp,” “The Dress,” “Feeling Through” and “Sound of Metal”).

          The group says that by including disability in its research, UCLA can help focus industry attention on disabilities and ensure more projects made by filmmakers with disabilities receive funding to reach audiences.

          FWD-Doc (Filmmakers with Disabilities) is a group of filmmakers with disabilities and active allies. The org seeks to increase the visibility of, support for and direct access to opportunities, networks and employment for Deaf, disabled, and neurodiverse filmmakers.

          Aside from LeBrecht, group leadership includes co-founders Day Al-Mohamed, Lindsey Dryden and Alysa Nahmias and interim director Amanda Upson.