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NBCUniversal Adopts Ruderman Foundation Guidelines to Audition Actors with Disabilities

Erin is the Digital Content Manager at the Jewish Journal. She also covers Jewish art, entertainment and culture.

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Erin Ben-Moche
Erin is the Digital Content Manager at the Jewish Journal. She also covers Jewish art, entertainment and culture.

NBCUniversal joins the growing number of production companies committed to auditioning actors with disabilities with the help of the Ruderman Family Foundation, a Jewish disability awareness and activist organization.

The major media and entertainment conglomerate announced the guidelines on January 29 and joins in the foundation’s continuous efforts to improve the portrayal of disabilities in entertainment and increase the number of roles that cast actors with disabilities.

Janine Jones-Clark, NBCUniversal’s executive vice president of inclusion, talent & content, film, television & streaming, said in a statement that the company remains committed to “creating content that authentically reflects the world we live in and increasing opportunities for those with disabilities is an integral part of that.

Jones-Clark added, We are proud to join the Ruderman Family Foundation pledge as calls to action like theirs are important and hold the industry accountable of the work we still need to do in order to see systemic change.” 

The Ruderman Family Foundations guidelines include recognizing that disability is central to diversity, acknowledging that the disability community comprises one of the largest minority groups in the country and understanding that increasing auditions, no matter the size of the role, is a critical step towards achieving inclusion in the industry. The Ruderman guidelines for representation and inclusion also call on companies to increase the number of auditions for actors and actresses with disabilities in television and film.

“The Ruderman Family Foundation is thrilled to see NBCUniversal commit to our guidelines and dedicate themselves further to casting people with disabilities in their productions,” Ruderman Family Foundation President Jay Ruderman said in a statement to the Journal.

NBCUniversal’s commitment to authentic representation has previously been demonstrated in Gone,” “New Amsterdam,” “Rise,” “Chicago Med,” “Law and Order: SVUand This Is Us.

The foundation has been certifying movies and shows with its Seal of Approval for Authentic Representation, awarding 20 recipients with the Seal thus far, including the latter of NBCUniversal programs in November. For more than five years, the Ruderman Family Foundation has spearheaded efforts to change the landscape in Hollywood for people with disabilities.

The foundation has been certifying movies and shows with its Seal of Approval for Authentic Representation.

The Ruderman Family Foundation is no stranger to holding the entertainment industry accountable. In 2019, the foundation released a white paper report showing that half of U.S. households want accurate portrayals of characters with disabilities, despite only 22 percent of characters with disabilities are authentically portrayed on television.

The foundation, along with prominent members of the disability community, condemned the depiction of characters in Warner Brosremake of The Witches in November. In addition to garnering the support of major studios, a separate foundation-initiated pledge was signed by a host of actors and directors, which called on studio, production and network executives to pledge to create more opportunities for people with disabilities.

Among those who signed the pledge were Oscar winners George Clooney and Joaquin Phoenix, Oscar nominees Ed Norton, Bryan Cranston and Mark Ruffalo, actors Glenn Close and Eva Longoria, and Oscar-winning director Peter Farrelly and Bobby FarrellyIn July, the foundation partnered with Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer for a public service announcement calling on the entertainment industry again to increase the casting of people with disabilities and earlier this month honored Taraji P. Henson with its 2020 Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion.

As a result of the foundation’s initiatives in the industry, it was honored with the SAG-AFTRA Disability Awareness Award at last year’s Media Access Awards.

Ruderman noted that NBCUniversal’s commitment is a big leap forward in the ongoing movement to create more opportunities.

“By having such an influential entity like NBCUniversal take this bold stand, we hope to continue to see others join us in striving to create more opportunities for people with disabilities in entertainment,” he said.

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