Contact: Gregg Mitchell (323) 782-4574
 
News Release: October 8, 2010
2010 Media Access Awards Honor Hollywood

Celebrating Inclusion of Disability in the Media and Entertainment Industries

BEVERLY HILLS -- The 2010 Media Access Awards were celebrated Friday morning at a press breakfast at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. The Media Access Awards honors individuals and organizations in the entertainment and broadcast industries for their efforts in promoting the awareness of the disability experience, accessibility for people with disabilities, and the accurate depiction of characters with disabilities.

The 2010 Media Access Awards are co-sponsored by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), the Casting Society of America (CSA), the Producers Guild of America (PGA), Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW), Friends of Californians with Disabilities, the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, and R.J. Mitte. The Awards were produced by Deborah Calla of Calla Productions.

The following awards were presented at the breakfast:

  • AFTRA Disability Awareness Award – Darcy Pohland, a successful newscaster in a wheelchair (posthumously, WCCO-TV)
  • SAG Harold Russell Award – Danny Woodburn is an actor and a union advocate for performers with disabilities and Little People. (Seinfeld, Passion, Men In Trees)
  • CSA Award – Robert J. Ulrich, Eric Dawson, Carol Kritzer, for diverse casting of actors with disabilities (Glee)
  • WGAW Joan Young Award – Vince Gilligan, for creating realistic characters with disabilities (Breaking Bad)
  • Producers Guild of America George Sunga Award - Mike Tollin (Radio, Smallville, Coach Carter) led a group of 12 Special Olympians up Mt. Kilimanjaro in 1990, which resulted in an Emmy Award-winning film, Let Me Be Brave
  • Christopher Reeve Acting Scholarship – Christopher Thornton (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Brothers & Sisters), who became paraplegic in a climbing accident in 1992 wrote and co-starred with longtime friend Mark Ruffalo in Sympathy for Delicious which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival 2010
  • RJ Mitte Diversity Award - Atticus Shaffer (The Middle), for an actor with a physical or emotional disability with limitations that would make an acting career seem implausible

The host for the Media Access Awards was KCBS/KCAL-TV Anchor Pat Harvey. Presenters at the awards included actors Ron Livingston, CSI’s Robert David Hall, Glee’s John Autry, Lauren Potter and Zack Weinstein, Geri Jewell and many others.

This year’s Media Access Awards also marks the 20th anniversary of the American’s With Disabilities Act. Signed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act has fostered independence, empowerment and inclusion for millions of Americans. With an aging society in America, combined with a growing number of disabled veterans, recognizing the talents of disabled persons in the entertainment and broadcast industries is even more important than ever.

There are an estimated 56 million Americans living with disabilities. The entertainment unions and guilds recognize the social impact of films, television and broadcasting, and strive for an open dialogue regarding the portrayal of disability and increased employment opportunities in front of and behind the scenes. To that end, the Media Access Awards celebrate producers, actors, writers, broadcasters and casting directors who have made positive contributions to more accurate, inclusive portrayals of people with disabilities in film, television, and the media – and are pioneers in affecting change.

Past Media Access Awards recipients include: Michael J. Fox, Jose Feliciano, Robert David Hall, Anthony Edwards, Nancy Davis, Norman Lear, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, Ray Charles, Diane Schuur, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Leeza Gibbons, Verne Troyer, Patty Duke, Carrie Fischer, Robert Guillaume, Montel Williams, Aaron Spelling, and many more.

The Media Access Awards was created in 1979 by the California Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and producer Fern Field and her late husband Norman Brooks to recognize and encourage the accurate portrayal of people with disabilities. The Media Access Awards seek to increase the inclusion of disability in what we see and hear, and to raise public awareness, understanding and acceptance.

About the California Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities
The Governor’s Committee is responsible for providing leadership to increase the numbers of people with disabilities in the California workforce. The volunteer membership of the Governor’s Committee is comprised of decision-makers and leaders from the private and public sectors whose expertise is essential in supporting and building systems that promote universal access, remove barriers to work, and enable people with disabilities to gain independence and economic self-sufficiency.

About the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA)
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO, are the people who entertain and inform America. In 32 Locals across the country, AFTRA members work as actors, journalists, singers, dancers, announcers, hosts, comedians, disc jockeys, and other performers across the media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings, music videos, commercials, audio books, non-broadcast industrials, interactive games, the Internet and other digital media. The 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists of AFTRA are working together to protect and improve their jobs, lives, and communities in the 21st century. From new art forms to new technology, AFTRA members embrace change in their work and craft to enhance American culture and society. Visit AFTRA online at www.aftra.com.

About the Producers Guild of America
The Producers Guild of America is the non-profit professional association that represents, protects and promotes the interests of all members of the producing team in film, television and new media. The PGA has over 4,500 members who work together to protect and improve their careers, the industry and community by providing members with health benefits, employment opportunities, the creation of fair and impartial standards for the awarding of producing credits, as well as other education and advocacy efforts such as promoting sustainable production practices and diversity in the industry. Visit www.producersguild.org, www.pgagreen.org, www.pgadiversity.org for more information.

About the Screen Actors Guild
Screen Actors Guild is the nation's largest labor union representing working actors. Established in 1933, SAG has a rich history in the American labor movement, from standing up to studios to break long-term engagement contracts in the 1940s to fighting for artists' rights amid the digital revolution sweeping the entertainment industry in the 21st century. With 20 Branches nationwide, SAG represents more than 125,000 actors who work in film and digital motion pictures and television programs, commercials, video games, industrials, Internet and all new media formats. The Guild exists to enhance actors' working conditions, compensation and benefits and to be a powerful, unified voice on behalf of artists' rights. SAG is a proud affiliate of the AFL-CIO. Headquartered in Los Angeles, you can visit SAG online at SAG.org.

About the Writers Guild of America, West
The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) is a labor union representing writers of motion pictures, television, radio, and Internet programming, including news and documentaries. Founded in 1933, the Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members. It is involved in a wide range of programs that advance the interests of writers, and is active in public policy and legislative matters on the local, national, and international levels. For more information on the WGAW, please visit: www.wga.org.

About the Casting Society of America
The Casting Society of America is the premier organization of theatrical Casting Directors in film, television, and theatre. Although it is not a union, its members are a united professional society that consistently set the level of professionalism in casting on which the entertainment industry has come to rely. It's more than 450 members are represented not only in the United States, but also in Canada, England, Australia and Italy.

About the Friends of Californians with Disabilities
Friends of Californians with Disabilities, Inc. a 501(c)(3), is a leader in developing statewide and national partnerships to increase employment and independent living opportunities for people with disabilities. They played a major leadership role in the partnership that created such innovative nationally acclaimed projects as the California Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities (YLF), the Media Access Office and Awards and the “Windmills” Disability Awareness Diversity Training Program.

About the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research, and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy. For more information please visit our website at ChristopherReeve.org or call 800-225-0292.