Relating to Persons with Diverse Abilities & Diversity and Inclusion in Filmmaking

Two ingredients that make for a universal design of full community are diversity and inclusion. Diversity is what a person has. Inclusion is what you do for the person. Our goal is that people with diverse abilities are included in a film about the Hawaii state legislative process.

Inclusion of all people in filmmaking is important. This means that each person brings their talent, abilities and interests to the team creating a vital and dynamic voice on and off camera. When selecting who will be featured actors, background actors, film crew and other positions, it’s important to look at the person first and how their presence will contribute to the message of the film. This is no different than looking at a person who happens to have diverse abilities, or in this case, a developmental disability who has something to say.

Here are some important tips when considering your cast and film crew:

1. Meet and talk to people with developmental disabilities

This means meeting a variety of people that range in disability, age, etc. This will help you learn directly from the people who are living their everyday lives with the same aspirations as everyone else. Your vision of community will be enhanced when all community members can be seen and have a voice.

2. People First Language

Remember—individuals with disabilities are people first. Statements such as “Disabled person” need to be changed using people first language “Person with a disability.” A person needs to be seen as a human being first and not by their characteristics. Using words of respect can change attitudes and drive inclusion.

3. Social Valued Roles

Respect for our diverse community means recognizing people for their social valued roles and not their labels. This means that a person with a developmental disability is seen by others as being important and having a valued role. They are a mother, father, son, daughter, friend, employee, business owner, church member, student, advocate, etc.

4. Visibility

It’s important to show real people doing real things. This includes people with developmental disabilities. Visibility is recognizing someone’s presence, participation, and contribution. This can lead to understanding, acceptance, and trust.

5. Nothing About Us, Without Us

This is the motto for people with disabilities. Be intentional and make people with disabilities a part of your decision-making consideration even before you begin your filmmaking process. By including people with disabilities at the start of your project, you will convey a message that is inclusive, meaningful, and reflective of the whole community.