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Amazon Studios and Prime Video aimed to “earn the trust” of its audiences and film and TV employees with disabilities earlier this year but adding “accessibility” to its core diversity, equity and inclusion values.
Speaking on behalf of the studio at TheWrap’s annual industry conference TheGrill, head of U.S. and worldwide DEIA content Jerome Core shared why and how the company is ensuring “all of our initiatives, all of our policies” incorporate a newfound emphasis on inclusion for the disability community.
“In February, we added the ‘A’ to our name, so we are now the DEIA team — ‘A’ for accessibility,” Core said. “We really wanted to make sure that all of our initiatives, all of our policies, everything was including accessibility.
Core spoke on the importance of DEIA at Amazon Studios and Prime Video as part of TheGrill’s “No Barriers: The Battle for Hollywood Inclusion” panel, held Wednesday. The panel included Core; Yvette Urbina, VP of DEI content and production at Warner Bros. Discovery; Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i, EVP, Entertainment, Diversity & Inclusion, Paramount; Dakota Ortiz, VP of impact and inclusion at Endeavor; and Emerlynn Lampitoc, VP of creative talent and content at Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. Ariana Case, program manager of USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, moderated the panel.
During the wide-ranging conversation, each participant was given the opportunity to highlight strides their companies made over the years in the name of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, and the goals they’d like to hit in the future.
In their mission to uplift audiences and employees with disabilities, Core said, Amazon Studios and Prime Video “found a very interesting problem.” In the company’s “self-ID survey” used on all productions to “figure out who’s on the production and what we need to do to make sure that they have a welcoming environment,” Core learned that those with disabilities were reluctant to publicly self-identify as such.
“It’s actually really hard to get someone on a production set to say, ‘I have a disability,’ because of centuries of being told to hide their disability,” Core explained. “Usually, if I identify that I have a disability, that means I’m limiting the work I can do. So that was a huge headwind for us this year. And we’re really working hard to earn trust of the disability community and folks that are on our sets because we want them to know that when you raise your hand, we are going to give you the productivity tools you need to do your best job ever.”
Per the Pew Research Center, there are about 42.5 million Americans with disabilities, which makes up about 13% of civilian noninstitutionalized population, according to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2021. But those numbers are historically not reflected in Hollywood. I 2019, the disabled community only made up 2.3% of all speaking characters in the 100 top-grossing films in the U.S.
Casting more talent with disabilities is one of Amazon Studios’ key focuses for inclusion, which highlights the company’s goal of casting people who self-identify as a person with a disability in at least 10% of its roles.
“We’re just doing everything we can to earn trust and let people know they no longer have to hide their disability,” Core concluded. “We are here to provide productivity tools for you and ensure that you are doing your best job, just like everyone else is.”
Watch the full panel discussion in the video below.
About TheGrill: For more than a decade, TheGrill event series has led the conversation on the convergence of entertainment, media and technology, bringing together newsmakers to debate the challenges of and opportunities for making content in the digital age. TheGrill delivers a unique series of curated discussions, industry panels and networking activations that explore the ever-changing media landscape. TheGrill is powered by the essential source for entertainment insiders, WrapPRO, TheWrap’s premium content subscription platform. This members-only service and community provides deep analysis and access — that can’t be found anywhere else — on the business of entertainment, streaming and media. Click here for more information on WrapPRO.