Academy Awards Make Push For Increased Disability Representation
For the first time, movies will have to meet inclusion standards in order to contend for best picture at the Oscars and disability representation is a significant piece of the puzzle.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said this week that eligibility requirements will take effect beginning with the awards given in 2024.
The move is intended to “encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience,” the Academy said.
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Under the new requirements, films must meet two out of four standards to be eligible for Hollywood’s top honor. The standards cover a film’s casting, storyline and who’s working behind the camera as well as training opportunities and promotional staff at the company backing the movie.
Including people with cognitive or physical disabilities as well as those who are deaf or hard of hearing are among the ways that a film can satisfy the standards. For example, a film could qualify under one standard if its storyline focuses on this group or if actors with such disabilities account for a significant number of secondary or more minor roles.
The new inclusion mandate also covers underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
In order to be considered for best picture in 2022 and 2023, films must submit a confidential Academy Inclusion standards form, but they won’t be expected to meet the criteria until 2024. The standards will only apply to the best picture category.
“We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry,” Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement.
Hollywood has long faced criticism for minimal representation of people with disabilities and other minority groups. A report out last year found that only 1.6 percent of all speaking characters in the 100 top-grossing films of 2018 had a disability.
Lauren Appelbaum with RespectAbility, a nonprofit that works to promote disability inclusion in Hollywood, welcomed the Academy’s initiative.
“We are especially pleased to see people with disabilities included, as too often disability is not included in diversity conversations,” she said.
In particular, Appelbaum indicated that it’s significant that the Academy’s plan encourages people with disabilities to be in roles behind the camera since that will help bring about more authentic stories.
While there is still work to be done, she said, “this is a major first step to bringing about change in an industry that has been resistant to change.”