Oscars 2021 – Disabled actors, characters take center stage at this year’s Academy Awards

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Crip Camp team pictured on the red carpet of the academy awards

2021 will go down in history books for the record number of Oscar nominations for disabled actors and characters in the Academy Awards. Disabled actors and disabled characters won nominations in prominent categories, all signs of inclusive storytelling becoming a more authentic part of Hollywood.

With three team members on wheelchairs, one accompanied by a service dog, the much talked about Crip Camp made a strong statement for disability inclusion on the Oscars Red Carpet in the 2021 Academy Awards. The documentary tells the story of Camp Jened, a summer retreat in the Catskills where many young people with disabilities experienced the joys of community from 1951 to 1977.

“We’re on the red carpet! #Oscars,” Crip Camp’s official Twitter account said proudly. “Sending hope & gratitude to my friends on the #CripCamp team today!,” tweeted “Crip Camp” writer David Radcliff, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. “No matter what #Oscars bring, I hope this is a tipping point after which seeing disabled people at awards doesn’t seem so revolutionary. Thank you for all the work you’ve done & the doors you have helped to open.”

And Crip Camp has indeed opened doors. It may have lost out in the Best Documentary Oscar category but the nomination clearly led to a major push for disability inclusion in the awards ceremony. For the first time an accessible stage was created and there was captioning for the broadcast as well.

Spotlight on movies on disability
The greater emphasis on disability inclusion was evident all around. A Google commercial during the 2021 Oscars generated nearly as much attention as the nominees. This was a Google ad featuring a pair of grandparents who are deaf using various pieces of technology to communicate amid the pandemic.

“Thank you so much @Google for featuring this story during the @Oscars2021Live_ about a CODA (Child of Deaf Adult),” was one of the tweets. “I absolutely loved the inclusion of the grandson signing “more” when he was eating. Sign language at its finest! #Google #Oscars2021 #inclusion.”

Instagram Knows Just How Damaging It Is for Teen Girls

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Instagram Knows Just How Damaging It Is for Teen Girls

By , The Cut

For several months now, Facebook execs have been kicking around an eerie product idea few people seem to want: Instagram for Kids. Given the negative mental-health outcomes the app’s youngest users already report, lots of parents, lawmakers, and almost all the nation’s attorneys general have lobbied the company to please not. Nonetheless, Facebook persists — the youths are a lucrative market! — even though its own research reportedly confirms that for teens, Instagram outpaces other social-media platforms when it comes to fostering feelings of anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphia.

“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” reads a slide from a 2019 presentation of corporate data, according to The Wall Street Journal. Apparently, Facebook has been investigating these topics for about three years, and the findings have painted a bleak picture. “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” another slide stated. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.” Numbers from 2020 indicated the same: “32 percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse …Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.” Among teens who reported experiencing suicidal thoughts, 6 percent of U.S. users and 13 percent of U.K. users attributed ideation to Instagram.

The Journal reports that about 40 percent of Instagram users clock in under 22, and that about 22 million teens use the app daily. For this group, corporate research suggests that Instagram poses a unique problem in terms of social comparison, or the tendency to measure oneself against the standard set by other people’s posts. While TikTok leans on performance and Snapchat promotes cartoonish filters, Instagram is where people go to document their best moments, often edited for maximum impact. Then in comes the algorithm, the same villain that may have led you to believe everyone went to Greece without you this summer: Similar to TikTok, it notices what content engages you and for how long, then tailors your Explore page accordingly. The Journal identifies this feature as a uniquely damaging Instagram feature: One 18-year-old who spoke to the paper said she developed an eating disorder after falling into fitness wormholes every time she opened the app. “When I went on Instagram, all I saw were images of chiseled bodies, perfect abs, and women doing 100 burpees in ten minutes.”

While the research notes that not every young user who spends time scrolling reports the same problems, it also suggests that many link their self-esteem issues directly back to Instagram. In one survey of U.S. and U.K. teens, 40 percent reportedly said they started feeling “unattractive” around the same time they started using Instagram; about 25 percent said it made them feel “not good enough.” Many said that using the app created anxiety around friendships and social activity, but that many teens are “unable to stop themselves” from logging on.

What’s especially discouraging, though, is that Facebook publicly downplays Instagram’s potential for making people depressed, even though it has the data. “The research that we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental health benefits,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress in March of this year, while in May, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said adverse effects on adolescents’ well-being were probably “quite small.” One in three teen girls isn’t an insignificant portion of users, though it is a strong argument against the forthcoming Instagram Junior. Nobody asked for this, and per Facebook’s own data, it seems no one needs it, either.

Click here to read the full article on The Cut.

Asmongold opens up on mental health struggles in candid Twitch stream

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During a stream on September 11, Asmongold shared a candid moment with viewers where he discussed his struggles with mental health and suicidal thoughts.

By Bill Cooney, Dexerto

During a stream on September 11, Asmongold shared a candid moment with viewers where he discussed his struggles with mental health and suicidal thoughts.

Asmongold is one of the most popular MMO steamers on Twitch, but recently opened up to fans about the struggles he’s had with mental health as a result.

When a user donated and asked if he’d ever “felt like Reckful (who took his own life in 2020) unironically.” Asmon gave an honest answer that initially concerned fans before the streamer provided reassurance.

“‘Do you ever feel how Reckful felt unironically?’ I probably shouldn’t say this, I’ve wanted to kill myself many times, yeah, absolutely,” Asmon revealed during the stream.

If you check out the chat while Asmon was saying this, there is an outpouring of love and support for the streamer, but at the same time worry for the concerning comments from viewers.

“What a f***ing segway,” Asmon added. “Yeah, many many times, I’m just too much of a p****y to do it, don’t worry about it I’ll be fine, I’m not going anywhere.”

His chat was, as we said, more than supportive after the streamer made these comments, but they still caused plenty of concern among fans. However, he said it was something he’d been wanting to talk about for awhile, and would be making changes to his stream in the future.

“I’d like to take down some of the super high energy stuff I do, and just try to have a little bit more of, just me,” Asmon said. “Not a bunch of crazy bulls***t, not a bunch of weird showmanship, just me. Just me streaming us having fun together, and relaxing.”

Mental health has become a huge issue not just on Twitch, but with internet personalities and creators as a whole. Asmon certainly isn’t alone in his struggles, either, so if you happen to tune into him in the near future, be sure to show the WoW OG some love.

Click here to read the full article on Dexerto.

Zendaya says she prioritized her mental health while growing up in the spotlight

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Zendaya said that the pandemic led her towards feeling persistent existential sadness

By The News International

Hollywood superstar Zendaya got candid about her mental health and how she learnt to prioritize it while growing up in the spotlight.

In a sit-down with British Vogue, the Dune actor, 25, spoke about going to therapy and recommended everyone to give it a try as well.

“Of course I go to therapy. I mean, if anybody is able to possess the financial means to go to therapy, I would recommend they do that. I think it’s a beautiful thing,” said the Euphoria actor.

“There’s nothing wrong with working on yourself and dealing with those things with someone who can help you, someone who can talk to you, who’s not your mom or whatever. Who has no bias,” said the former Disney star.

The actor also spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that subsequently followed led her towards feeling persistent existential sadness.

“[It was the] first kind of taste of sadness where you wake up and you just feel bad all day, like what the [expletive] is going on? What is this dark cloud that’s hovering over me and I don’t know how to get rid of it, you know?”

Click here to read the full article on The News International.

Paralympian Sophia Herzog has a mental health coach and psychologist ‘to get me prepared and healthy’

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Sophia Herzog smiling at the camera

By Cindy Augustine, Yahoo! Life

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

Sophia Herzog may be a Paralympian bound for Tokyo and determined to win a medal in swimming, but in many ways, she’s a lot like her 20-something peers: focused on her future. The Colorado native, who was born with a form of dwarfism, has been steadily training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, prepping for the Tokyo games — but she knows she can’t swim forever.

When Herzog, 24, isn’t training or obsessing over her dog, Odie, she’s been thinking about what lies ahead after swimming — and choosing to make her education a priority. As a graduate from DeVry University, an official education provider of Team USA, Herzog was able to get her degree on her own terms (mostly virtual), and showed off her ability to juggle her athletic training and career training.

Herzog will be competing in freestyle, breaststroke and butterfly heats as the Paralympic Games get underway on Tuesday. Before taking off for Tokyo, the athlete caught up with Yahoo Life and shared how she stays focused and mentally prepared.

How do you approach taking care of your mental health?

We saw how much pressure athletes are under from the [Tokyo] Olympics, and I think it’s really important. I have a mental health coach and a psychologist that I work with almost weekly to get me prepared and healthy, just like my gym coach and swim coach. It’s nice to shed a light on the pressure — Olympic superhero athletes are just like every other human.

Aside from being in the pool, what else brings you joy?

We adopted a dog last June, and he’s been [helpful] in disconnecting from swimming. Getting outside and watching him be joyous over the littlest things has been a huge help for me. He’s now my child [laughs], Odie. I’m only 24 years old now and this is what I’ve done professionally for 12 years. I haven’t really experienced life outside of swimming and I’m looking forward to finding what brings me joy — besides my dog.

Click here to read the full article Yahoo! Life.

Midlothian boy born with rare condition gets a special escort on his first day of kindergarten

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Midlothian boy born with rare condition gets a special escort on his first day of kindergarten Batman and Captain Marvel greeted 5-year-old Michael Denison outside his house Monday morning. He got a look inside a police squad car and fire engine before taking off for his first day of school.

By Lori Brown and Shannon Murray, Fox LA

MIDLOTHIAN, Texas – Midlothian police officers and firefighters helped make the first day of kindergarten special for a little boy who is facing some challenges this school year.

Batman and Captain Marvel greeted 5-year-old Michael Denison outside his house Monday morning. He got a look inside a police squad car and fire engine before taking off for his first day of school.

Then at Mountain Peak Elementary, classmates and teachers gave him a warm welcome.

Last week, Michael’s mom, Brittany Denison, made a plea on social media for kids to be kind and asked parents to educate their children about people who are different.

Michael was born with a rare condition called Treacher Collins syndrome. All of the bones in the lower half of his face are smaller than they should be just like the boy Auggie in the movie “Wonder.”

“We’ve had multiple instances where people have used the words scary, monster or weird and that’s really uncomfortable,” she said. “When you’re in a room with Michael for two minutes you understand immediately that he is just the same as every other kid.”

Midlothian’s fire chief said as the story spread on social media, his firefighters knew they wanted to do something to help. So they reached out to the family and school to coordinate the special escort.

“My name is Dale, I am the fire chief,” Dale McCaskill told Michael. “We heard you might be a little nervous going to school your first day so we are going to give you a ride on the fire truck.”

Michael’s mom said when she made that plea on social media she had no idea it would lead to so much support in both the community and from people all across the world.

“To see him smile like that, that was once in a lifetime. That was amazing, unforgettable,” she said after dropping him off for his first day. “He’s an extraordinary kid so I wanted him to have an ordinary year. But I can’t imagine this will be an ordinary year for him anymore. The welcoming experience of the kids being outside, the waves and the smiles, that’s what you want for your kid to be welcomed with open arms.”

She hopes that it creates an even bigger conversation for all families and all students about accepting each other despite differences and standing up for one another.

Click here to read the full article on Fox La.

Selma Blair: Actress says she’s in remission from multiple sclerosis

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Actress Selma Blair has said she is "in remission" from multiple sclerosis.

By BBC News

The 49-year-old American, known for films like Cruel Intentions, Hellboy and Legally Blonde, was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease in 2018.

Blair, who had been left with intense physical pain, told reporters her condition had improved as a result of a stem cell transplant and chemotherapy.

“My prognosis is great,” she said. “I’m in remission. Stem cell put me in remission.”

She added: “It took about a year after stem cell for the inflammation and lesions to really go down.”

Stem cell treatment it is not a cure for MS but can help to stabilise the disease and improve disability, according to researchers.

The star was speaking while promoting a documentary, Introducing Selma Blair, which follows her as she “reconciles a journey of monumental transition” to living with the incurable condition, which affects the brain and spinal cord, causing vision, balance and muscle problems.

MS had left Blair unable to speak properly or fully use her left leg, and she was pictured using a cane to walk up a red carpet after the Oscars two years ago.

Speaking to a virtual Television Critics Association panel on Monday, she said she had been doing well for the last few months after having felt “unwell and misunderstood for so long”, according to People and the Associated Press.

“I was reluctant to talk about it because I felt this need to be more healed and more fixed,” she said.

Click here to read the full article on BBC News.

“CODA” actress Marlee Matlin on making noise

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Marlee Matlin signing during a video interview

By CBS News

She was just 21 years old when she won Hollywood’s most coveted prize – the Oscar, for Best Actress – for her first movie, “Children of a Lesser God.” “You have to understand that I was a girl from Chicago who appeared on the scene out of nowhere,” said Marlee Matlin.

Thirty-four years later, she remains the only deaf person to win an Academy Award, in any category.

“When I won the Oscar,” she told Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz, “the community was very, obviously very thrilled, certainly. And then they said, ‘Okay, now what? What are you gonna do for us?’ It was a heavy load.”

Her new film, “CODA,” now streaming on Apple TV, is the story of deaf parents with two children, a deaf son, and a hearing daughter, played by Emilia Jones.

Matlin plays the mother: “It’s about a hearing girl who wants to sing, but she has deaf parents who rely on her to interpret, and they always have.”

Mankiewicz asked, “They want hearing actors as the father and the older brother. And you say?”

“I said, ‘If you do that, if you choose somebody who’s gonna ‘play’ a deaf person, I’m out,'” Matlin replied.

“That suggests to me that, maybe, 35 years after ‘Children of a Lesser God,’ and 34 years after the Oscar, that you’re a little more comfortable making some noise?”

“And in all honesty, I didn’t even think,” Matlin said. “I just said it, I put it out there. Playing deaf is not a costume. We, deaf people, live it.”

For Matlin, “CODA” (the acronym stands for Child Of Deaf Adults) gave her a rare opportunity to work in an ensemble cast of deaf actors.

“It was always sort of as background or, you know, token deaf characters,” Matlin said. “And this time we carried the film.”

“I was envious, and I think my wife was, too, of the marriage [in the film],” Mankiewicz smiled. “Like, that’s what I want, right? That was it. That’s as good as it gets!”

“You could still do it,” Matlin laughed.

“No, we’re good, we’re good,” Mankiewicz assured her.

As the most famous deaf person in show business (and probably the country), Matlin has worked steadily since her debut – feisty on “The West Wing,” funny in an episode of “Seinfeld,” and always game, quickly becoming an audience favorite on “Dancing with the Stars.”

She’s come a long way from the Chicago suburb where she grew up as a deaf child in a hearing family. Her hearing loss was caused by illness and high fevers when she was just one-and-a-half-years-old. “My childhood was so normal,” she said. “I was just so happy to have great neighbors, great schools, great friends, great family.”

“You’re a big sports fan?”

“Yes, I am. Big time! My father and I always watched sports together. You really didn’t need captions to watch sports.”

Her parents enrolled her in a weekend arts program for deaf children, where the camp director cast eight-year-old Matlin as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.”

Click here to read the full article on CBS News.

Photo of Braille-etched Railing at Italian Castle Describing Stunning View Goes Viral

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Braille-etched Railing at Italian Castle

By News 18

Often the internet tends to shine a light on something beautiful and fascinating and a recent photo of a railing on a window in a castle in Italy has gone viral. And it has happened for a good enough reason. Sitting atop a hill that overlooks the Italian city of Naples is the Castel Sant’Elmo (St Elmo Castle) which is a popular tourist haunt.

Hundreds walk up to the top of the castle to enjoy the view but there is yet another attraction on display in the castle. A 92-foot-long piece of stainless steel is attached to the wall fence of the castle of one of its large sized windows and it has a poetic description of the view in Braille. The unique railing was installed by artist Paolo Puddu in 2015 and titled ‘Follow the Shape’ and has been a permanent fixture at the castle since 2017, a report on Ozy.com said. The art had won the fifth edition of the ‘A Work For the Castle’ contest.

Visitors are encouraged to feel the installation wherein they run their hands on the rail and those who can read the Braille script can ‘follow the shape’ on the railing to read the verses from Italian author Giuseppe de Lorenzo’s ‘La terra e l’uomo’ or the ‘The Land and the Man’.

Click here to read the full article on News 18.

How Troy Kotsur Broke Barriers As A Deaf Actor, On Stage, On Screen And Now In ‘CODA

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Troy Kotsur attends the CODA Los Angeles photo call on July 30, 2021 in West Hollywood, Calif.

By , NPR

The new film CODA premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews and a record-breaking distribution deal with Apple. One aspect of the film that awed both audiences and critics was the supporting performance by actor Troy Kotsur. He plays a father and fisherman in the story, struggling to understand his hearing daughter’s dreams to sing.

Prior to the film’s acclaimed Sundance debut, Kotsur has already been a pioneering star of stage and screen, honing his craft despite the structural limitations of an industry that hasn’t always recognized his gifts. “If Troy were a person who could speak and hear, if he were a hearing person, his star would have risen many, many years ago,” signs fellow actor David Kurs, who is also artistic director of Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles. “There is a deep respect for him and his work. And so to finally see him in a place where his work can be witnessed by a larger audience has been an inspiration.”

Kostur’s vulnerability, expressiveness and humor make him a wonderful actor, says CODA director Sian Heder. “Troy’s an incredible improvisor and he’s really funny,” she says. “He’s just a handsome, big guy who’s got a great face on screen and I think he’s got incredible charisma and presence. His ASL (American Sign Language) is really creative and really beautiful.”

Fisherman, father and acting force of nature
CODA centers on Ruby Rossi, a high school student who wants to be a singer. She’s a ‘Child of Deaf Adults,’ the only hearing person in her family. Ruby’s family rely on her to voice what they sign, code switching for the hearing world. She works on the family’s boat with her brother, who’s also deaf, and her father, played by Kotsur.

“He’s kinda like a papa bear,” Kotsur signs in ASL, American Sign Language. “There’s humor, and that bond is very tight.” As the film proceeds, Frank tries to understand and relate to why singing is so important to his daughter. In one poignant scene, he asks her to sing for him as he tenderly holds her neck to feel the reverberations.

Kotsur says the scene echoes an experience he once had with his own daughter. “A long time ago when she was in kindergarten, she sang for a class performance” he recalls. “I asked, ‘can I just kind of feel your neck?’ And it was very cute. And then all those years later, the movie CODA was a real flashback where I did the same thing. And now my daughter is learning how to play guitar. So sometimes I’ll just touch her guitar so that I can feel her strumming.”

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

NYC Ballet hosts disability-friendly workshop for young people

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Contributed participants in Saturday's Workshop for young people with disabilities

By Allison Collins, The Daily Star

New York City Ballet dancers raised the barre for young people with disabilities during a Saturday, July 17 workshop hosted by the company, Saratoga Performing Arts Center at the National Museum of Dance and the Cerebral Palsy Association of New York.

Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky, Pediatric Orthopedist with Bassett Healthcare Network, has been involved with such New York City Ballet workshops since their inception roughly seven years ago, at which time he worked part time downstate. The workshops began, Dutkowsky noted, after a mother of child with cerebral palsy approached the company asking for disability-friendly instruction.

Today, Dutkowsky said, the annual NYCB workshop at SPAC is one of “10 or 12” held “all year long,” though Saturday’s marked the first in-person workshop since the COVID-19 pandemic. The event included roughly 20 young people from 4 through 22 and was led by NYCB corps dancers Meaghan Dutton-O’Hara and Davide Riccardo, who demonstrated warm-ups and choreography inspired by the company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The one-hour workshop was free to participants and included tickets to day-of SPAC performances.

Dutkowsky credited the workshops’ impact with ensuring their continuation.

“I thought, ‘OK, this might go on for a year or two,’ but the ballet has absolutely gone head over heels for this and totally fallen in love,” he said. “The dancers fight over doing these classes. These are professional dancers used to always being judged — on the stage, in rehearsal or in the mirror — and it can be a very self-absorbing life. But these kids don’t judge them; these kids give them a respite where they don’t have to be perfect … and that’s why they crave doing these classes. The love and care they have for these kids is absolutely genuine, and that’s why it works.”

Such rewards, Dutkowsky said, are reciprocal.

“It’s a very inclusive place and a very welcoming place,” he said. “It’s strength and diversity, because you have these dancers with the greatest control of their bodies … and some kids who’ve never taken a single step without assistance, but where some people see divergence, I see glorious convergence. There’s something wonderful when they come together, and each will tell you the other gives more than they receive.

“Art, in this case dance, is uniquely human,” Dutkowsky continued. “It’s part of us, and people with disabilities have the same desires for love and intimacy and they get angry and sad; art helps to bring that out. With this, they’re not just passive observers, they’re active in the art and they’re feeling it in themselves as they try to do things and explore their own bodies.”

Otego resident Ruth Modinger and her 22-year-old daughter Marybeth, whom Modinger described as “multiply disabled,” attended Saturday’s workshop. The opportunity, Modinger said, proved “amazing.”

“We did it because it was an activity that Marybeth could participate in and be normal,” she said. “She could fit in with her peers. She loves to interact and she loves other people, but she isn’t always appropriate with other people. With the children there, everyone was special … and she just fit in, and it was beautiful. Everyone could fit in, doing what they were doing, and there was a mutual understanding that you didn’t know what was going to happen, but it was going to be something special.”

According to a release from the Cerebral Palsy Association of New York, to regulate attendance of this year’s event, parents and guardians were encouraged to participate alongside their children, instead of occupation and physical therapy “buddies.” This modification, Modinger said, only enhanced the experience.

“With Marybeth being nonverbal, she was not able to communicate, but I was able to help her do the movements,” she said. “She could reach toward a toy that she wanted and that was her way of doing the movements; other children got really, really into it and were dancing and doing what the dancers were doing.”

Encouraging such differing levels of participation, Modinger and Dutkowsky said, underscores the program’s mission.

“The two dancers were leading, and one would always model while standing, doing it able-bodied, and another would model from a seated position,” Modinger said. “So, you were always doing what was appropriate for you, and that made it so inclusive. It was just adorable, and the emotions were so real and the kids just truly participated to their ability.”

Click here to read the full article on The Daily Star.

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Upcoming Events

  1. 2021 ERG & Council Conference
    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021
  2. The Arc’s 2021 National Convention
    September 27, 2021 - September 29, 2021
  3. CSUN Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. 2021 ERG & Council Conference
    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021
  2. The Arc’s 2021 National Convention
    September 27, 2021 - September 29, 2021
  3. CSUN Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022