create / 2020

Los Angeles Disability Employment Initiative

Los Angeles Disability Employment Initiative

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by RespectAbility

Our Disability Employment Initiative will bring public, private and nonprofit sectors together to enable people with disabilities to gain the skills and jobs they need to succeed. We will ensure that the ABILITIES of Angelenos with disabilities are included in Los Angeles employment initiatives, especially those helping the city recover from COVID-19. Our annual Los Angeles Lab for disabled entertainment professionals and other key work will reduce stigmas that limit employment for people with disabilities.

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program

What is the need you’re responding to?

The COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented public health crisis, decimating the economy. Even before the pandemic, Californians with disabilities were being dropped from the workforce. People with disabilities – 25% of adults in Los Angeles – are not included in traditional diversity employment initiatives, especially in the entertainment industry, LA’s third-largest industry. As the workforce rebuilds post-COVID-19, it is vital that people with disabilities are included in all initiatives, especially in film, TV, and media, where new hires and authentic and successful media portrayals will equip all viewers with high expectations for people with disabilities.

The need is clear for our Disability Employment Initiative: 65,161 students with disabilities and 600,000 working-age people with disabilities live in Los Angeles. But only 62% of students with disabilities graduate high school, compared to 82% without a disability. Just 1-in-3 has a job, but studies show 70% want to work.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?

RespectAbility expands disability employment nationally and creates systems change with a multitiered approach that includes advocacy, education, and training. We co-chair a task force of 120+ disability organizations. Locally we partner with UNITE-LA and the City of Los Angeles Department on Disability to provide expertise, convene stakeholders to foster innovative employment opportunities, and provide opportunities for entertainment professionals with disabilities to work in Hollywood studios (our Summer Lab). We are strongly positioned to succeed due to key partnerships and extensive networks in the entertainment industry, including our board members and dozens of other active volunteers.

We increase hiring initiatives of people with disabilities by working with studios including NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Company and Netflix. We collaborate with other inclusion organizations, including the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and GLAAD on LGBTQ equity.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?

Direct impact
Indirect impact

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

Our task force and trainings will ensure better employment outcomes for many of the 600,000 working-age Angelenos with disabilities, during and after the COVID-19 recovery. 300 employers and partners will participate in disability equity trainings. A minimum of 25 entertainment professionals with disabilities mentored in our Lab and 100 entertainment executives who participate in RespectAbility trainings will increase visibility of successful people with disabilities on screen and behind the camera. This will change perceptions of employability of people with disabilities, ensuring they are not forgotten in solutions to the COVID-19 economic crisis, or later. LA can become a model disability-employer and replicated around the country.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

We define success by increasing equitable hiring of people with disabilities and accurate representation on- and off-screen and by fighting stigmas that limit their employment opportunities. We will measure our success by:

  1. Ensuring the post COVID-19 economic recovery embraces the abilities of people with disabilities by running at least 4 convenings of an “Employment First” task force with the Los Angeles Dept. on Disability, along with ongoing advisory efforts.

  2. Conducting at least 4 disability inclusion trainings for LA organizations engaged in rebuilding the local economy through employment and/or entrepreneurship.

  3. Running a Summer Lab for Entertainment Professionals, which will:
    • Train a minimum of 25 participants (virtually in 2020).
    • Place a minimum of 15 graduates into competitive, integrated employment in studios and production companies within first year after graduation.
    • Ensure a minimum of 100 entertainment executives meet participants, increasing equitable hiring of people with disabilities on and off screen.
  4. Through our year-long activities, we will:
    • Train a minimum of 5 studios/production companies on disability inclusion.
    • Advise on a minimum of 10 television shows, films or other media productions for more diverse and successful representations of characters with disabilities.
    • Create and distribute the second Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit.

Which of the create metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Employment in the creative industries
  • Jobs per capita
  • Unemployment rate

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?

  • LA is the healthiest place to LIVE

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?

  • Access to the LA2050 community
  • Host public events or gatherings
  • Office space for meetings, events, or for staff
  • Strategy assistance and implementation