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Actor Geri Jewell was the recipient of AFTRA's Disability Awareness Award at the 2011 Media Access Awards. Photo: AFTRA

Jewell of AFTRA

Posted October 06, 2011

Actor Geri Jewell was honored Thursday with the AFTRA Disability Awareness Award at the 2011 Media Access Awards breakfast at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

This annual event honors individuals in the entertainment and broadcast industries for their efforts in promoting the awareness of the disability experience, accessibility for people with disabilities, and the accurate depiction of characters with disabilities. The goal of genuinely representing and shedding light on various disabilities while raising public perception through the media takes center stage for this celebration. A vibrant and positive reception, the Media Access Awards continues to bring out some of the brightest and most supportive stars of television and film as recipients and presenters year after year.

Jewell, who has cerebral palsy, is best known for her roles on the sitcom "Facts of Life" and the drama, "Deadwood." AFTRA selected Jewell because of her pioneering work as a performer, taking on roles that put her front-and-center with viewers at home and bringing important awareness to persons with disabilities. In her recent autobiography, "I'm Walking as Straight as I Can: Transcending Disability in Hollywood & Beyond," Jewell writes about her life with cerebral palsy and coming out as a lesbian, all against the background of Hollywood.

Anita Hollander, who sits on the tri-union Inclusion in the Arts & Media of People with Disabilities (I AM PWD) committee presented the award to Jewell, who was unable to attend. Accepting on Jewell's behalf was Kathy Buckley, a groundbreaker in her own right as the first high-profile hearing-impaired comedienne.

"The Media Access Awards are a vibrant celebration of a phenomenon that needs to be nurtured and allowed to grow: namely, the hiring of performers and broadcasters with disabilities, who bring to their job the accuracy and authenticity that makes our media more truthful and exciting,” said Hollander, who is National Chairperson of the AFTRA Performers with Disabilities Committee.

Click here to see a video Jewell specially recorded for the event.

“The AFTRA Disability Awareness Award singles out some of our finest broadcasters, recording artists and performers, so many of whom have broken down barriers and led the way for others to come," Hollander added. "Geri Jewell is one of those pioneers who historically broke down a wall in television decades ago and continues to break new ground with her acting, stand-up comedy and writing. And she happens to have been a very dear friend of mine for the past 22 years, so GO GERI!"

The 2011 Media Access Awards are co-sponsored by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), the Casting Society of America (CSA), the Producers Guild of America (PGA), Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW), Friends of California with Disabilities, the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, and the R.J. Mitte Scholarship. This year’s awards ceremony was presented by Starz Entertainment and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, with additional support by William Morris Endeavor, NBCU, and Kevin Bright.

This year’s awards ceremony is presented by Starz Entertainment and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

Other winners at the Media Access Awards include:

Past Media Access Awards recipients include: Michael J. Fox, Jose Feliciano, Robert David Hall, Marlee Matlin, Anthony Edwards, Nancy Davis, Norman Lear, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, Ray Charles, Michael Landon, Diane Schurr, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Leeza Gibbons, Verne Troyer, Patty Duke, Carrie Fisher, Robert Guillaume, Montel Williams, Aaron Spelling, and many more. 

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