Working in Mass Media

Two people, one Asian and one African American, sit across from each other at an LCA event. Three other people sit at tables in the background. The text says, “Lights! Camera! Access! (LCA) National Career Exploration Summit Application on Zoom in collaboration with ReelAbilities Film Festival Los Angeles.”

GADIM has no programs for media training, but there are programs for people with a variety of disabilities who are interested in pursuing careers in mass media.

Typically, many people, including disabled people, who work in mass media careers have college degrees in related fields. However, because of the networking needed to get mass media jobs, there are several programs that provide mentoring, skills training, and fellowships to disabled people.

For example, the BBC in Great Britain’s news and entertainment divisions have committed to hiring more disabled actors and disabled journalists. In 2018, a BBC training program for disabled actors called Class Act held a nationwide search for the actors and then held a three-day workshop on a variety of skills needed to get jobs in the entertainment industry. Disability Arts Online reported that all 32 participants got auditions with the BBC. The initiative is “part of the BBC’s ambition to support and raise the profile of disabled actors,” according to Disability Arts Online. In 2017, the BBC put £1 million toward a program “to recruit, train and develop journalists with disabilities, both visible and hidden.”

If you are already creating mass media content, you can join U.S. disabled creatives at the 1IN4 coalition. It “is an intersectional coalition of disabled creatives currently working in Hollywood focused on long-term institutional shifts to increase employment and authentic representation of disabled people.” 1IN4’s goal is get disabled people employed in all forms of entertainment media so they can tell the real story of their experiences, which will help the world better understand the actual lives of the 1.3 billion disabled people worldwide.

The United States also has programs to encourage people with disabilities interested in careers in news or entertainment media. The New York Times and the National Center on Disability and Journalism partnered in 2021 to create a fellowship to develop early career journalists with an expertise in coverage of disability issues. Although not explicitly for disabled journalists, the first Fellow is Amanda Morris, who has hearing loss and identifies with the disability community. Women with disabilities specifically can apply for the Women’s eNews Loreen Arbus Accessibility is Fundamental Fellowship. Women’s eNews selects and trains two female journalists with disabilities (over and under 50 years of age) “to research, interview and write about the most current, crucial and cutting-edge issues impacting women and girls in the disability community.”

Designed for aspiring media professionals, filmmakers and storytellers with disabilities, the Lights! Camera! Access! (LCA 2.0) Network in the US hosts media career exploration summits in major cities and virtually. The “summits are designed for two target audiences: media employers seeking qualified and creative prospective employees and collaborators; mentors in search of mentees with disabilities; and participants who are aspiring media professionals with disabilities or who are Deaf,” according to the LCA Network. LCA 2.0 hopes its projects will:

  • “Increase employment of people with disabilities in front of, and behind the camera/keyboard;
  • “Improve disability portrayals and reduce stigma;
  •  “Integrate access to media with captions and audio descriptions.”

The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge in the US, although not a training program, allows any person or team with disabilities to make a short film during its weekend-long filmmaking contest. The Film Challenge “provides a platform for new voices to tell unique stories that showcase disability in its many forms. Challenge winners receive invaluable access to entertainment professionals, opening the door to an industry notoriously difficult to enter,” contest creators say.

The Access Acting Academy in Los Angeles and virtually is an actor training studio for blind, low vision, and visually impaired adults, teens, and children. Deaf Film Camp is a film training program for Deaf teens aged 13-16 in the US. It plans to host campers again in 2022. On the Deaf Film Camp YouTube Channel, one can view films from past camps.

Media training programs for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD)

Media and arts careers should be open to people with I/DD because “the right to access, participate in, and enjoy arts and culture by people with disabilities is both a cultural right and civil rights issue,” according to a 2021 report, “State of the Arts: The Inclusion of Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in the Arts Community.” “There is a need for individuals with I/DD to have the opportunity to be exposed to the full range of arts and arts-related careers and have access to the necessary supports, education, and training in order to pursue those careers and participate to the fullest in their community.”

The following is a list of media training programs for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD):

Note: Please let GADIM know about training programs for people with I/DD in your location and they will be added to the list. 

  • Bus Stop Films in Australia has an Accessible Film Studies Program in multiple locations for people with intellectual disabilities.
  • Digital Arts for Autism is in Orlando, Florida. It trains autistic adults (+18) in digital media and animation.
  • Exceptional Minds is an academy and studio in Southern California. It prepares young adults on the autism spectrum for careers in animation, visual effects, 3D gaming and other related fields in the entertainment industry.
  • Inclusion Films teaches filmmaking to individuals with developmental disabilities in six production studios in California. It also provides short film camps for children and adults with developmental disabilities in locations around the United States.
  • Performing Arts Studio West (PASW) in Southern California provides professional training and management for performers with intellectual disabilities. Founder and director John Paizis discusses PASW’s philosophy in an Institute for Community Integration article.
  • Zeno Mountain Farm in Vermont has a film camp in which disabled and nondisabled people collaborate to make films. Its past films are part of its film studio. It also has camps and retreats for veterans, people with TBI, people in the cancer community, people with chronic illness, and people in recovery.
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