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Network Pledges to Give Disabled Actors a Chance to Audition for Every New CBS Series

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On Wednesday, the Hollywood Reporter announced CBS Entertainment’s pledge to give actors with disabilities more opportunities to audition for roles. In addition to auditions for the network’s TV programs, CBS said it will increase disability representation across its networks and platforms.

CBS Entertainment’s pledge reads:

We recognize that disability is central to diversity, that the disability community comprises the largest minority in our nation, and that people with disabilities face seclusion from the entertainment industry. We understand that increasing auditions, no matter the size of the role, is a critical step toward achieving inclusion in the industry. This studio pledges to increase the number of actors and actresses with disabilities who audition for parts on television and in film.

CBS made its pledge to audition more people with disabilities following a challenge from the Ruderman Family Foundation, a disability advocacy organization. According to a Ruderman Family Foundation white paper on disability representation in the media, only 2% of all TV characters have a disability and 95% of those characters are played by actors without a disability.

Based on the foundation’s research on media representation, it launched the Ruderman TV Challenge, asking TV networks and streaming platforms to audition and cast more actors with disabilities. The Ruderman Family Foundation highlighted casting people with disabilities in all roles, from main characters to small speaking roles and background actors, is important when it comes to increasing disability representation onscreen.

CBS is the first network to accept the foundation’s challenge. Ruderman’s white paper listed CBS as the top network for disability representation for the 2017-2018 season. A total of 11 CBS TV series or pilots included actors with disabilities. The CBS series “NCIS: New Orleans,” for example, features actor Daryl “Chill” Mitchell in a lead role. Mitchell uses a wheelchair.

“We take pride in our commitment to cast and hire people with disabilities in our productions,” CBS Entertainment Executive VP of Diversity, Inclusion and Communications Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i said in a statement, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “We salute the Ruderman Family Foundation for advocating for this very achievable and important goal.”

Ruderman Family Foundation President Jay Ruderman applauded CBS Entertainment’s commitment to ensure actors with disabilities have the opportunity to audition for every new CBS project that gets a full production order. He also hopes other networks will follow suit. Ruderman said in a statement:

The Ruderman Family Foundation commends CBS for its leadership in becoming the first major media company to pledge to audition actors with disabilities for roles in their productions. It is our hope that other major media companies will follow their lead and foster opportunities that will lead to more authentic representation of people with disabilities in popular entertainment. Enhanced visibility of disability onscreen will help reduce stigmas people with disabilities face in everyday life.

Originally published: June 20, 2019
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