AwareNow: Issue 16: The Mayday Edition

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Page 21

“Disability is an asset.”

RJ: (continued) If you talk about everyone, that's not diagnosed, everyone that's not being treated or even knows that they even have something. A lot of people go through life, not knowing. And then one day they go, “Oh, by the way, you wonder why you can't do this, or you wonder why you're not sleeping or doing this. You have ‘X’ and here you go. Welcome to the community. I’ve seen a large growth. It's hard because this industry is not an easy industry. People see it on Twitter and Instagram. They see TV and movies. They go, “Oh, I want to do that.” They don't realize that Triumph has been in the works for over five years of work, hundreds and thousands of dollars into it, hundreds of millions of hours of time and dedication go into these projects. But people just want the instant gratification.

But over the last decade, I've seen a lot of change when it comes to more inclusion, more accessibility and opportunities for people. Yes, you still get a lot of people that are able-bodied that are playing people with disabilities, but I think it's a double-edged sword. I think at the same time, we need more people with notoriety portraying roles to get mass media interested — to get the communities engaged in talking about what we want to see and what we don't want to see. Now we have a platform for that. We have the ability to say, “I want to see this type of film” or “I don't want to see this type of content.”

Matthew: The second part to this question is what would you like industry to know regarding what actor with disabilities can bring to the table for a role?

RJ: I think the biggest thing is that having a disability does not make you a liability. There's been a big issue when it comes to not just the entertainment industry, but industry as a whole — manufacturing, producing, packaging, and business in general. They have this misconception that disability equals a liability. It's subconsciously about that, but really it's the opposite. Disability is an asset. It’s knowledge. It’s power. It’s empowerment. Case studies have shown when businesses hire individuals with disabilities, it raises morale for workers and increases productivity.