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Ruderman Foundation Grants $1M to Academy Right Before The Oscars to Promote Accessibility and Equity

The grant will help push new perspectives on filmmaking and film history as well as an accessible and equitable experience for audiences of all backgrounds, including those with disabilities.

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

April 22, 2021
(From left to right) Sharon Shapiro, Jay Ruderman and Shira Ruderman of the Ruderman Family Foundation. Credit: Joe Chung Photography

Just in time for the 93rd Academy Awards this Sunday, The Ruderman Family Foundation announced it has approved a $1 million grant to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The grant will help push new perspectives on filmmaking and film history as well as an accessible and equitable experience for audiences of all backgrounds, including those with disabilities.

This million-dollar grant is the latest in the foundation’s efforts to improve disability inclusion within the entertainment industry in America and Israel.

The grant will support three main avenues of diversity and inclusion across the Academy’s activities, programming and educational services. These include inclusion and accessibility initiatives at the new Academy Museum and support for an Academy Film Archive. The funding will also help Academy Gold Rising, an internship program for college-age students and emerging professionals from communities underrepresented in the film industry.

Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said in a statement he is proud to “spark progress” and create a more inclusive community in the entertainment industry.

“This ambitious partnership promises to move Hollywood a significant step closer to the day when authentic representation and ample opportunities for actors with disabilities are the industry norms,” Ruderman said.

“This ambitious partnership promises to move Hollywood a significant step closer to the day when authentic representation and ample opportunities for actors with disabilities are the industry norms.”

The money will also go toward content and accessibility services at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, scheduled to open in September. The content includes a regular film screening series and exhibitions of work made by and about people with disabilities that document and capture the realities and perspectives of individuals and/or communities with disabilities. The museum’s accessibility will ensure participation from visitors of all abilities, including an American Sign Language (ASL) tour on the museum app and increased accessibility for the museum’s website and mobile app.

Christine Simmons, Academy COO and to whom the Office of Representation, Inclusion and Equity reports, said, “The Ruderman Family Foundation’s generous support will help continue and expand important Academy initiatives aimed at increasing inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the filmmaking industry. By working together, we can create more opportunities to amplify the voices of people with disabilities, share their stories and increase inclusion both in front of and behind the camera.”

The Ruderman Family Foundation has made a push to make Hollywood more inclusive in recent years in film and television. 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 Bros remake 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 Farrelly. In July 2020, 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.

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