Sunday, November 22, 2015

Breaking Bad’s RJ Mitte to join British Channel 4 lineup for Rio Paralympics

From The Guardian in the UK:

Breaking Bad actor RJ Mitte, who played Walter White’s disabled son Walt Jr, will join Channel 4’s hosting team for the Paralympics in Rio as part of the channel’s 2016 programme lineup. 
Mitte, who has cerebral palsy, will be leading reports and features on the Paralympics, as well as taking part in the channel’s The Last Leg comedy programme. 
He said: “I’m so excited and honoured to be working with Channel 4 for the upcoming 2016 Paralympic Games. Sports connects us through the art of competition and I look forward to meeting all the athletes and learning about how they achieved their goals of pursuing their passion on such an elite level.”
Channel 4’s head of TV events and sport Ed Havard says: “RJ is a huge star worldwide after being part of the one of the biggest TV shows of all time and we are delighted that he will be such a huge part of our Rio coverage. 
Channel 4’s head of TV events and sport Ed Havard says: “RJ is a huge star worldwide after being part of the one of the biggest TV shows of all time and we are delighted that he will be such a huge part of our Rio coverage. 
“His passion for sport and his groundbreaking role in transforming attitudes to disability make him the perfect addition to C4’s own world-class team of talent being led by Clare Balding.” 
Channel 4’s coverage of the 2012 Paralympics in London beat the BBC’s Olympics coverage to a Bafta award for best TV sport coverage of a live event. The same production company behind the channel’s coverage of the London Games, Sunset+Vine, will work on next year’s games.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A&E Network to premiere new original docu-series ‘Born This Way,’ which focuses on adults with Down syndrome

From the A&E Networks. Pictured are Rachel, Sean, Cristina and Steven, who star in the new A&E Docu-Series “Born This Way.”

NEW YORK, NY – November 11, 2015 – A&E Network will premiere the new original docu-series “Born This Way,” following a group of seven young adults born with Down syndrome along with their family and friends in Southern California. The six-episode, hour-long series from Bunim-Murray Productions premieres Tuesday, December 8 at 10 PM ET/PT.
Cameras follow the young men and women of “Born This Way,” as they pursue their passions and lifelong dreams, explore friendships, romantic relationships and work, all while defying society’s expectations. In their willingness and courage to openly share their lives, through a lens that is not often shown on television, we learn they have high hopes just like anyone else. The series also gives voice to the parents, allowing them to talk about the joy their son or daughter brings to their family, and the challenges they face in helping them live as independently as possible.  
“We are proud to be airing this important and extraordinary series and hope it will inspire meaningful conversations about people with differences,” said Elaine Frontain Bryant, EVP & Head of Programming A&E Network.  “‘Born This Way’ is a show with honesty, humor and heart that celebrates and embraces diversity.” 
“There is a freshness and honesty in the way these young adults lead their lives; something we could all learn from them. We are enormously thankful to them and their families for participating in this project,” said Jonathan Murray, Executive Producer. 
“I'm so incredibly proud to see ‘Born This Way’ highlight the outgoing personalities and amazing abilities of Best Buddies participants like Rachel Osterbach and Sean Mcelwee," said Anthony K. Shriver, Founder and Chairman, Best Buddies International. "It is my hope that this show will demonstrate to society that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are just like everyone else and should be fully included in our communities, our workplaces and our lives." 
A&E has partnered with celebrated global non-profit organization Best Buddies International and committed to an on-air PSA featuring Anthony K. Shriver and Best Buddies program participants in support of promoting opportunities and increasing awareness for people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The cast of “Born This Way” includes:
  • Rachel – Working in the mailroom for an insurance company, she will be the maid of honor at her brother’s upcoming wedding.  Rachel would love to get married herself, but first she has to find the right guy.
  • Sean – An excellent golfer and avid sportsman, Sean is a self-professed ladies’ man, who is not shy about introducing himself to every eligible woman he meets. 
  • John – From a very young age, John made it clear to his parents that he craved the spotlight.  A born entertainer, John is committed to his music and is pursuing a career in rap.
  • Steven – Working as a dishwasher at Angel Stadium in Anaheim and in customer service at a local grocery store, Steven is a huge movie buff and knows the title and year of each Oscar winning film.
  • Cristina – This loving and compassionate young adult works in a middle school. In her free time she loves talking on the phone with Angel, her boyfriend of 4 years and the man she plans to marry.
  • Megan – A budding entrepreneur, Megan has created a line of clothing she sells under the brand “Megology.”  She is pursuing her dream of becoming a film producer and is a proud advocate committed to spreading the word that society should not limit adults with disabilities.
  • Elena – With a flair for the dramatic, this young woman embraces life.  Elena loves to cook, dance and write poetry and takes a great pride in her independence.
According to the U.S. Census, one-in-five Americans have a disability. Currently 70 percent of working-age people with disabilities are not working – even though most of them want jobs and independence. The numbers are even worse for people with Down syndrome. While there are many studies that show that people with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, can work successfully and live relatively independently. 
"Born This Way” is produced by Bunim-Murray Productions (“I Am Cait,” “The Real World”). Executive producers for Bunim-Murray are Jon Murray, Gil Goldschein, Laura Korkoian and Barry Hennessey.  Executive producers for A&E Network are Drew Tappon and Elaine Frontain Bryant. 
About A&E Network Now reaching more than 96 million homes, A&E is the home to quality original content that inspires and challenges audiences to BE ORIGINAL.  A&E offers a diverse mix of uniquely immersive entertainment ranging from the network’s original scripted series, including “Bates Motel” and “Damien” to signature non-fiction franchises, including “Duck Dynasty,” “Wahlburgers” and “Storage Wars.”  The A&E website is located at  Follow us on Twitter at and Facebook at  For more press information and photography please visit us at 
About Bunim/Murray ProductionsBunim/Murray Productions is the leading producer of innovative entertainment content.  The Emmy Award-winning company is widely credited with creating the reality television genre with its hit series The Real World (30 seasons on MTV).  BMP continued to innovate with the first reality game show, Road Rules (MTV), in 1995; the first reality sitcom, The Simple Life (E!), in 2003; and the first reality soap opera, Starting Over (NBC), in 2003.  Bunim-Murray’s current programming also includes I Am Cait, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Dash Dolls, and Total Divas (E!), Real World and The Challenge (MTV), Project Runway and Project Runway All Stars (Lifetime), Fix My Mom and Bad Girls Club (Oxygen), and Valerie’s Home Cooking (Food Network).  Bunim/Murray Productions has also produced films, including Valentine Road (HBO), Pedro(MTV) and the Emmy Award-winning Autism: The Musical (HBO). Bunim/Murray Productions has launched additional entities including BMP Films, BMP Digital and BMP Latin. Based in Van Nuys, CA, Bunim/Murray Productions was founded in 1987 by Jonathan Murray and the late Mary-Ellis Bunim, who were inducted into the Television Academy of Arts & Science’s Hall of Fame in 2012. The company joined Banijay Group in 2010.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

University of Michigan Press endorses accessible book publishing guidelines

From Inside Higher Ed:

A key first endorsement from the University of Michigan Press has a group of disability studies scholars hopeful that their guidelines for publishing accessible digital books is slowly gaining momentum. 
Catherine Kudlick, Margaret Price, Jay Dolmage, Melissa Helquist and Lennard J. Davis this summer released guidelines that promote universal design in publishing, encouraging publishers to produce digital books that anyone, regardless of disability, can read. 
Nearly five months later, the campaign to raise support for the guidelines is still in its “baby phase,” said Price, an associate professor of English at Spelman College. A handful of scholarly associations have endorsed the guidelines, including disability studies organizations in the U.S. and Canada. 
Those endorsements did not come as a surprise, Price said. The Society for Disability Studies -- one of the endorsing organizations -- has created a permanent home for the guidelines on its website, for example. Winning over the publishing world continues to be the greater challenge, as many publishers would have to change their business practices. 
Practically speaking, the guidelines suggest publishers make changes such as adopting the open EPUB 3.0 standard for ebooks, using screen-reader software to check if the content is accessible and waiving digital rights management (DRM) restrictions, among other recommendations. 
Some of those recommendations are easy fixes, but the idea of DRM-free ebooks, in particular, has many publishers concerned that their titles could be pirated. Publishers, like software companies and digital media stores, can use DRM to make it more difficult for users to create copies of purchases, among other restrictions. 
The team behind the guidelines is not launching a large-scale effort to persuade publishers to endorse them. Price, for example, said she has only contacted two publishers -- the University of Michigan Press and Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group -- because of their activity in the field of disability studies. Still, she said, the process has already been more frustrating than anticipated. 
An inquiry to Routledge back in August, for example, set off a seven-week email chain about ebook pricing, contracts with retailers and the steps print-disabled readers have to take in order to buy an accessible copy of a book. 
Davis, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago whose Disability Studies Reader is published by Routledge, described the conversation with the publisher as a “process.” He noted a positive “slow progression” from working with Routledge on producing a fully accessible book. 
“I can’t say the whole world has changed, but there’s been some movement,” Davis said. “The phase that we’re in now … is ‘Have you talked to your publisher?’” 
Davis, Price and their colleagues received even better news from the University of Michigan Press, which recently delivered a full-throated endorsement of the guidelines. 
“When the University of Michigan Press invests so much effort in ensuring the quality of every other aspect of our publishing, it is logical that we should ensure our ebooks are accessible to all readers,” its director, Charles Watkinson, said in a statement. “Committing to accessibility is not only the right thing to do (strongly aligned with our parent university's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and meeting the desires of our distinguished authors in disability studies). It also makes good design and business sense.” 
The moment is of particular significance to the team, Price said, as “no academic press before now has stepped up to say, in straightforward language, ‘Yes, we are going to do this.’” 
Kudlick, professor of history at San Francisco State University, said Michigan's endorsement is a welcome relief from conversations with other publishers. "There isn't malice from publishers but more they lack a sense of urgency and I'm guessing they don't have clear guidelines about who is supposed to do what," Kudlick said in an email. "Too many of my interchanges have been being handed off from one well-meaning, clueless person to another. No one instance is bad but they accumulate, which is exhausting and demoralizing." 
Michigan decided to endorse the guidelines after Stephen Kuusisto, a prominent activist, poet and professor of disability studies at Syracuse University, in July blogged about the problems he ran into when trying to read the university press's ebooks. 
“I find it ironic that a press which publishes books on disability and culture has so little expertise in making its scholarly publications easy to read for blind researchers,” Kuusisto wrote. “But they are not alone. Try reading online journals or downloading articles from major academic websites. You will find it's a jungle out there.” 
In an interview, Watkinson said Kuusisto was right to “out” the university press, which in response is changing how it works. The changes extend throughout the production process, he said, including updating the author guidelines, ensuring all illustrations come with text descriptions and offering DRM-free copies. 
“It’s just been an aspect of publishing that has slipped through the cracks,” Watkinson said about accessibility. “There are a lot of added responsibilities in terms of ebook publishing, and it’s still a world that’s shaking itself out.” 
All new ebooks published by the university press now follow the new guidelines, and the publisher is also “working backwards” to ensure previously published books get the same treatment when they are made available as ebooks, Watkinson said. About one-tenth of its publications are in disability studies, but Watkinson said the university press is seeing a growing interest in the field. 
Watkinson said he is somewhat concerned about offering ebooks without DRM restrictions, but added that having an “access bias” will probably outweigh the risks. “It’s just the right thing to do, but it’s also a pragmatic business decision,” he said.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Research study says disabled people face clear job bias

NEW YORK — Employers appear to discriminate against well­ qualified job candidates who have a disability, researchers at Rutgers and Syracuse universities have concluded.  
The researchers, who sent résumés and cover letters on behalf of fictitious candidates for thousands of accounting jobs, found that employers expressed interest in candidates who disclosed a disability about 26 percent less frequently than in candidates who did not.  
“I don’t think we were astounded by the fact that there were fewer expressions of interest” for people with disabilities, said Lisa Schur, a Rutgers political scientist who was part of the research team. “But I don’t think we were expecting it to be as large.”  
The sole variation among the otherwise identically qualified candidates appeared in the cover letters, which revealed a disability for some but not for others. The study, although it deals only with the accounting profession, may help explain why just 34 percent of working ­age people with disabilities were employed as of 2013, versus 74 percent of those without disabilities. 
Previous studies attempting to explain why disabled people are employed at lower rates generally suffered from their inability to control for subtle differences in qualifications that may have made disabled job candidates less attractive to employers, or for the possibility that disabled people were simply less interested in employment.  
Other studies, based on surveys or laboratory experiments that asked people how likely they would be to hire a hypothetical disabled candidate, suffered from the possibility that some respondents were simply telling researchers what they thought was socially acceptable.  
Volunteers in such studies may have also differed in key ways from the human resources personnel who act as gatekeepers for job candidates, according to Meera Adya, another coauthor, who is a social psychologist at Syracuse University.  
The fictitious cover letter approach, which other scholars have used to document discrimination on the basis of race and gender, largely solved these problems.  
“These kinds of experiments are very important in research on discrimination, and to the best of my knowledge this is the first serious attempt to do this kind of experiment on disability discrimination in the United States,” said David Neumark, a labor economist at the University of California Irvine who studies discrimination. “The study is well done.” 
The researchers constructed two separate résumés: one for a highly qualified candidate with six years of experience, and one for a novice candidate about one year out of college. For each résumé, they created three different cover letters: one for a candidate with no disability, one for a candidate who disclosed a spinal cord injury, and one for a candidate who disclosed having Asperger’s syndrome, a disorder that can make social interaction difficult.  
Earlier studies had suggested that better qualifications might help disabled candidates overcome employment discrimination, but the researchers found the opposite.  
Employers were about 34 percent less likely to show interest in an experienced disabled candidate, but only about 15 percent less likely to express interest in a disabled candidate just starting out his or her career. (The latter result was not statistically significant.)  
“We created people who were truly experts in that profession,” said Mason Ameri, a PhD candidate with the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers, who was another one of the researchers. “We thought the employer would want to at least speak to this person, shoot an e­mail, send a phone call, see if I could put a face to a name.”  
For the gap between disabled and nondisabled to be larger among experienced candidates than among novice candidates, he said, came as a surprise.  
Ameri and his colleagues speculated that the steeper drop­off in interest for experienced disabled candidates arose because more experienced workers represent a larger investment for employers, who must typically pay such workers higher salaries and who may anticipate the employment relationship lasting longer.  
Experienced workers are also more likely to interact with clients on a regular basis. Regardless of whether these concerns are legitimate, Schur said, “employers see these people as riskier.”  
The researchers found that the decline in interest in disabled workers was roughly the same whether the disability was a spinal cord injury or Asperger’s. If it were the result of a specific concern — for example, that candidates with Asperger’s would have a hard time interacting with clients, or that employers would have to build ramps for workers in wheelchairs — rather than a general bias against people with disabilities, it is unlikely that people with such distinct disabilities would have experienced a drop­off in interest of about the same magnitude.  
The study showed that the Americans With Disabilities Act, the 1990 federal law banning discrimination against those with disabilities, appeared to reduce bias. The lack of interest in disabled workers — and especially in the rate at which they were called back for an interview — was most pronounced in workplaces with fewer than 15 employees, the study found. Businesses that small are not covered by the federal law.  
At publicly traded companies, which may be more concerned about their reputations and more sensitive to charges of discrimination, evidence of discrimination on the basis of disability seemed largely to disappear.  
The same was true at firms that receive federal contracts, which are required by the government to make a special effort to hire disabled workers.