'Speech­less' big win­ner as Media Ac­cess Awards salute peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties-aka the world's in­vis­i­ble mi­nor­ity-were saluted Fri­day at the an­nual Media Ac­cess Awards, with pro­ducer John Mur­ray re­mind­ing that their pres­ence on­screen is not just ap­pro­pri­ate, "it's also good busi­ness." Mur­ray ("The Real World," "Keep­ing Up With the Kar­dashi­ans") was given the PGA Ge­orge Sunga Award, one of seven prizes handed out at the Four Sea­sons in Bev­erly Hills. Mur­ray said that peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, or PWD, "have been placed on the mar­gins and side­lines of TV."

He pointed out that his A& E re­al­i­tyshow "Born This Way," about seven in­di­vid­u­als with Down syn­drome, in­creased view­er­ship more than 80% dur­ing its first sea­son, so de­pic­tion "is not only the right thing to do, it's also good busi­ness." Scott Sil­veri, creator-writer of ABC's "Speech­less," was a dou­ble win­ner. He and fel­low pro­duc­ers Melvin Mar and Jake Kas­dan were hon­ored for series with the SAG-AFTRA Dis­abil­ity Aware­ness Award, while Sil­veri him­self also took home the WGAW Evan Somers Me­mo­rial Award. "We weren't look­ing to do any­thing rev­o­lu­tion­ary, we were just look­ing to tell a story," Sil­veri said.

He thanked the ed­u­ca­tors and ad­vo­ca­cyrights cham­pi­ons who have been fight­ing for years to open the doors "that we were able to walk through." Danny Wood­burn was given the Media Ac­cess Nor­man Lear-Geri Jewell Life­time Achieve­ment Award, for his ad­vo­cacy as well as his ca­reer. (Pre­sen­ter Mark Povinelli dryly de­scribed Wood­burn as "an icon of dwarf tele­vi­sion.") Wood­burn also dou­bled as em­cee of the event. Speak­ing of Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, Wood­burn said "He mocked us!" And that mock­ery, he pre­dicted "will re­ally get us mov­ing."

The Christo­pher & Dana Reeve Foun­da­tion Schol­ar­ship went to Mac­Gre­gor Ar­ney, which is al­ways given to an up­com­ing young ac­tor. Pre­sent­ing the award, Zach We­in­stein said he be­came a fa­ther for the first time only 13 days ago, and he's happy to know that his son will grow up in a world "where dis­abil­ity is go­ing to be nor­mal­ized." Cast­ing di­rec­tor Susie Far­ris was given the CSA Award, for her work on "Mr. Robot" and "Speech­less," among oth­ers. Ac­tress Jamie Brewer of "Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story" re­ceived the SAG-AFTRA Harold Rus­sell Award, earn­ing her the only stand­ing ova­tion of the day. Brewer, who has Down syn­drome, gave an emo­tional speech, talk­ing about the op­por­tu­nity of "find­ing our true selves within our work." The event was or­ga­nized by SAGAFTRA, the Pro­duc­ers Guild of Amer­ica, Writers Guild of Amer­ica and the Cast­ing So­ci­ety of Amer­ica; the event is in­tended to honor in­di­vid­u­als and to raise in­dus­try aware­ness. The cochairs of the event were Deb Calla and Alan Rucker. Among those in at­ten­dance were JK Sim­mons, Geri Jewell, Mar­garet Na­gle, Micah Fowler, Kyla Kenedy, Mason Cook, Cedric Yar­brough, Katie Le­clerc, Chad Cole­man and Drew Tap­pon.

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