AFTRA is proud of its leadership role by fighting discrimination, increasing employment opportunities, and educating broadcast and entertainment industry employers on the use of new and innovative technology in increasing opportunities for its members with disabilities. Congress designated each October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month in order to educate the public about issues related to disability and employment.
On October 15, 2006, Grammy-winner José Feliciano and acclaimed actor Robert David Hall were presented with AFTRA Disability Awareness Awards. On April 11, 2005, AFTRA brought together a broad coalition of labor, industry and New York City agencies to create this first-of-its-kind forum: Creativity & Artists with Disabilities: Using Technology to Increase Employment Opportunities for Actors, Writers and Broadcasters.
AFTRA National President John P. Connolly presented the AFTRA Disability Awareness Awards at ceremonies at Universal Studios Globe Theatre during the Media Access Awards.
“José Feliciano and Robert David Hall have made significant contributions in raising the visibility and awareness of disability issues in the broadcast, sound recording, and entertainment industries,” said Connolly. “I’m honored to present the AFTRA Disability Awareness Awards to these talented and gifted performers and AFTRA members.”
Over his outstanding career, José Feliciano received 16 Grammy nominations, won 6 Grammy Awards, and earned more than 45 Gold and Platinum records. Born blind and in poverty in Puerto Rico, his achievements include countless prestigious honors for his humanitarian contributions. He uses his talents to help others because "I'll never forget where I came from or the people who helped my family or me along the way," he said. Recognized as the first Latin recording artist to cross over into the English music market, Feliciano opened the doors to others. Feliciano brings information and insight to Latinos with diabetes as a spokesperson for diabetes monitoring. Because of his work, reported cases of Hispanics with diabetes have increased more than three-fold, leading to early and manageable treatment options.
Even though he enjoys success as the coroner in the CBS hit show "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” Robert David Hall always says that he won't be satisfied until other actors with disabilities are able to follow the trail he has blazed. "The awful business reality is that it's tough for any actor, and it is insanely marginalizing for people with disabilities," said Hall, who lost his right leg above the knee and his left leg below the knee in 1978 after a tractor-trailer driven by a drunken driver plowed into his vehicle. When he's not acting, Hall advocates for people with disabilities. He said, "As one of a handful of actors with a visible disability who works in television, I know how difficult it can be for a person with a disability to make a living in the arts. Indeed, there are huge gaps across the board between able-bodied and disabled citizens in employment, education, and general opportunity." As National Chairperson of the AFTRA Performers with Disabilities Committee, he has led the fight for inclusion and non-discrimination in the industry, greatly contributing to raising audience awareness and acceptance of the "ability in disability.”
The AFTRA Disability Awareness Awards are part of the Media Access Awards presented by the California Governor's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and the California Employment Development Department. The Awards recognize those who utilize the power of their medium to accelerate public awareness and acceptance of people with disabilities.
This is the fifth year that AFTRA has presented its Disability Awareness Awards. Past recipients include the late Ray Charles, Diane Schuur, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Ellis Hall Jr., Jane Pauley, Montel Williams, and the Non-Traditional Casting Project.