Ability

/Ability

Discussion Event

Ability

Thursday May 3rd - 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM
Record North

One in every five Americans is living with a disability, making it the largest minority population today. Yet far too often, their important and varied stories go untold. Join us for an important conversation, among several entertainment industry professional panelists, with experience in front of and behind the scenes, who are championing disability inclusion.

Speaker(s):

Becky Curran

Becky Curran serves as the Disability Equality Index (DEI) Program Manager at USBLN. In her current role, she’s responsible for managing the overall DEI program.

Becky received her Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Providence College, where she gained a passion for influencing change behind the scenes in the entertainment industry. Upon graduation and after 100 job interviews, Becky started working in the Entertainment Marketing department, followed by the Comedy Touring department, at Creative Artists Agency, the world’s leading entertainment and sports agency. Five years later, she worked at CBS Television Studios, where she assisted with the casting of pilots and television series. During this transition, she also served as the Marketing Director and Co-Founding Board Member of the Catalina Film Festival. She also founded DisABILITY In Media, which focuses on positive disability inclusion storytelling through social media.

After her six and a half years of working in the entertainment industry, Becky launched a public speaking business. A prolific public speaker and advocate for disability inclusion on a global scale, she has spoken at over 100 venues, including schools, corporations, nonprofit organizations and government agencies, throughout the United States and Kenya. She’s really passionate about disability inclusion in schools, the workplace, and everywhere else.

More recently, she spent three and a half years working in the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) & Diversity department at Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), the world’s largest entertainment union. At SAG-AFTRA, she supported the implementation of a national diversity plan of action to achieve accurate representation of those groups historically excluded from the entertainment and news media.

In addition, Becky serves on the Board of Advisors for the National Center For Disability Journalism (NCDJ) at Arizona State University.

Katy Sullivan

Katy Sullivan is an actress, producer, athlete and bilateral above knee amputee. Katy grew up performing in theatre and received a BFA in acting from Webster University’s Conservatory in St. Louis. She has worked on many stages in Chicago, including THE LONG RED ROAD at the Goodman Theatre directed by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, before making the journey west to try her luck at TV and film. She has appeared in numerous television shows and independent films including the award winning documentary, WALK ON. She has appeared on NBC’s MY NAME IS EARL, ABC’s LAST MAN STANDING with Tim Allen, FX’s Comedy LEGIT and CBS’ hit NCIS: NEW ORLEANS. She is starred in the World Premiere of the play COST OF LIVING at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, a show that moved to Manhattan Theatre Club’s Off-Broadway theatre in the summer of 2017. The production just received the Champions of Change award from the Mayor of New York City’s office.

She co-created SulliFlinn Productions with fellow Webster Grad, Becca Flinn. They produce online comedy content, short films and are developing a sitcom, LEGS, loosely based on their life experiences. They were 2015 Fellows at the Producer’s Guild of America in their Power of Diversity program.

Katy is also a three time US Champion in the 100m. She was among the first bilateral above the knee amputees to compete in the Paralympics in ambulatory track when she ran in the 100m at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, setting a new American record of 17.33s and finished 6th in the World. Katy was featured as an NBC Sports Analyst for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Brazil.

Gail Williamson

Gail Williamson joined the KMR Diversity Department in 2013 focusing on clients with disabilities. She challenged herself to grow the department and make a positive impact on the entertainment media’s inclusion of characters with disabilities in television, film, theatre, commercials and print. Gail’s vision for inclusion comes from assisting her own son in his career. Blair, who was born with Down syndrome, became an actor at the age of 11 in a national commercial. As a teen and adult, Blair’s resume grew with some very respectable credits. While Blair’s career was growing, Gail found employment with the California Governor’s Committee for Employment of People with Disabilities in their Media Access Office and the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles where she honed her skills working with talent.

Gail helped to develop and grow the careers of many new actors with various disabilities; perhaps the most recognizable bringing Lauren Potter (Becky Jackson on GLEE), Jamie Brewer (Adelaide, Nan & Marjory on AMERICAN HORROR STORY) and JLouis Mills (Forrester on HEARTBEAT premiering on NBC next week 3.22) to the attention of casting directors.

Gail is a popular public speaker/moderator on the subject of Disability in the Media and has been producing and presenting film festivals with disability themes for conventions and non-profit organizations since 2004.

RJ Mitte

Multi-faceted actor, producer and model, RJ Mitte is best known for his powerful performance as Walter “Flynn” White Jr. in AMC’s highly-acclaimed and widely popular dramatic thriller “Breaking Bad.” RJ was recently seen in the feature film "Tiempo Compartido" (Official Selection World Cinema Dramatic Competition at Sundance) and starred in "The Recall" opposite Wesley Snipes. RJ’s other credits include ABC Family's "Switched at Birth," the IFC film "Dixieland," and the feature film "Who's Driving Doug." He will next be seen in the feature films "Standing Up for Sunny” and “All The Little Things We Kill.” Outside of film and television, RJ has appeared as the celebrity face and model for Gap, walked in Men's Fashion Week in Milan, Berlin and New York City for designers such as Vivienne Westwood, soPopular, and Ovadia & Sons. RJ also appeared in Kenneth Cole's International "Courageous Class” campaign. Mitte has been an inspiration to his peers around the world by championing over his Cerebral Palsy in hopes of removing the stigma associated with disabilities. In order to bring awareness to his own issues with bullying and prejudice, Mitte has engaged in public speaking and serves as the official Ambassador for United Cerebral Palsy and Shriners Hospitals for Children. He's also a board member of SAG, working with their Pacer & I AM PWD organizations that seek equal opportunity for those with chronic ailments beyond normal illness. In 2016, RJ was the red carpet correspondent for Channel 4 at the Paralympics in Rio, Brazil.

Russell Shaffer

Russell Shaffer is Director – Brand Strategy, Outreach and Benchmarking in the Office of Global Culture, Diversity & Inclusion at Walmart, and reports directly to the Chief Culture, Diversity & Inclusion Officer. He and his team have responsibility for visual and messaging strategy; executive and enterprise communication; and strategic relationships related to the company’s global culture, diversity and inclusion initiatives. He joined Walmart in 2006 and has held roles managing global internal communications and benefits communications. In a previous role as Senior Manager – Constituent Relations, Russell managed Walmart’s corporate strategy and stakeholder outreach for the people with disabilities and aging constituencies.

His career as a professional communicator spans more than 15 years and includes roles in advertising, corporate communications, marketing, print journalism and public relations. Russell has held positions at May Department Stores, The Timken Company and The Ohio Optometric Association, and began his work experience as a teenager paying his way through school as an hourly associate at Walmart and Sam’s Club locations in Michigan and Ohio.

Russell was elected Chair of the Board of Trustees for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) in November 2017 after joining the AFB Board in October 2015. AFB also named him its 2015 Stephen Garff Marriott award recipient in recognition of his professional achievement and service as a person who is blind or low vision. He has previously served two terms as Chair of Walmart’s Advocates for Disability Awareness and Education (ADAE) resource group, and has been a board member of Sources for Community Independent Living in Fayetteville, Ark. since 2012. His service has included positions on the U.S. Business Leadership Network’s (USBLN) Corporate Advisory Board, the Disability Equality Index (DEI) Advisory Committee and the National Council on Independent Living’s (NCIL) Corporate Development Council. In April 2018, Russell travelled to China to serve as a private sector disability employment expert as part of a U.S. State Department delegation engaging in bilateral discussions with the China Disabled Persons Federation.

Russell is an honors graduate of Malone University in Canton, Ohio, and holds a bachelor of arts degree in business administration and communication arts. He resides in Rogers, Ark. with his wife, Jessica, and their children, Sophia and Brady. His perspectives on disability advocacy and inclusion are informed by his experiences with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic, degenerative eye disease that was diagnosed when Russell was 10 years old and led to his legal blindness by his late 20s.