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Sundance Panel: Changing the Way People View Disabilities

RJ Mitte is an actor on one of my all time favorite shows – the AMC hit Breaking Bad. However, he is an actor with mild cerebral palsy like his character on the show. On Sunday, January 25, RJ Mitte and Love to the rescue® Ambassador for Shriners Hospitals for Children®, hosted an empowering discussion as part of the Sundance Film Festival’s panel series.

Mitte, was joined by directors, producers, casting directors, writers and others in the film and television industry, including writer and director Peter Farrelly, (There’s Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber To), television host Montel Williams, writer and producer Lizzy Weiss, Director of Diversity at the Writers Guild of America Tery Lopez, Paralympic Medalist Amy Purdy and actor and veteran JR Martinez.

Peter Farrelly, Amy Purdy, JR Martinez, Lizzy Weiss, RJ Mitte and Montell Williams

Peter Farrelly, Amy Purdy, JR Martinez, Lizzy Weiss, RJ Mitte and Montell Williams (Photo credit: Chris Whittle at Corbis)

“Portrayals of characters with disabilities in film and TV are rare,” said moderator Adam Moore, national director of EEO & Diversity for SAG-AFTRA. “Even fewer people with disabilities appear on screen and work in those industries.”

Presented by Shriners Hospitals for Children, the panel emphasized the power of the screen to impact change on the perceptions of people with disabilities and to create an inclusive and accepting society. Shriners Hospitals provides specialty care for children with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate at its 22 locations in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Shriners Hospitals manages all aspects of treatment, including surgery, rehabilitation and psychological support throughout a patient’s childhood and adolescence, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

Amy Purdy, RJ Mitte & Montell Williams - Chris Whittle

Amy Purdy, RJ Mitte, Montell Williams (Photo credit: Chris Whittle at Corbis)

“People living with disabilities are capable and valuable to the entertainment industry and we must create the opportunity for them to showcase their talent,” said Mitte. “My desire to live a life without limits was fostered at Shriners Hospitals and I have them to thank for who I am. After today’s inspiring discussion, storytelling will change and will better reflect the diversity of our society.”

“We are honored to have RJ share his story so children living with disabilities can see that there really are endless possibilities to what they can achieve,” said Dale Stauss, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Shriners Hospitals for Children. “He is an excellent example of the innovative pediatric care available at Shriners Hospitals for Children that encourages patients to accept no limits throughout their healing process.”

Now is the time to create more roles for actors and crew-members with disabilities.

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