Heather Lavallee — CEO of Voya Financial and Inclusion Advocate

Title of page - Voya CEO Heather Lavallee
After 15 years of holding multiple roles at Voya Financial Inc. (Voya), including executive sponsor of Voya Cares, Heather Lavallee became CEO on January 1, 2023. ABILITY’s Jennifer Goga spoke with Lavallee to discuss her leadership and Voya’s culture of inclusion. Lavallee shared her personal career journey, discussed the value of mentorship,curiosity and listening ... Read more

Abigail Hawk — Authentic Representation is Long Overdue

Woman smiling with arm crossing her knee
Abigail Hawk, known for her roles in “Blue Bloods”, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and Distemper recently appeared in the new independent film, “Daruma.” Hawk plays Anna who is a supporting role to two authentically cast disabled leading men. Tobias (Toby) Forrest plays “Patrick”, a paraplegic, and John Lawson plays the grouchy neighbor ... Read more

Jennifer Goodman – Actor, Producer, Autism Activist, and Collaborator Ryan Atkins

Jennifer Goodman & Ryan Atkins interview
Jennifer Goodman Karum is shifting perceptions of people with disabilities in entertainment. Goodman, an autistic actress, writer, producer and creator, collaborated with Ryan Atkins, himself a producer and creator, to found Lakefront Pictures. This Chicago-based production studio aims to amplify unheard voices. In their work, diversity and disability are evident in the talent, both on ... Read more

Gallaudet University’s Virtual Challenge

Gallaudet University
For 150 years, Gallaudet University has been a trailblazer and foremost authority on deaf and hard of hearing education worldwide. Soon after COVID-19 took hold in early 2020, Gallaudet transitioned its campus to remote classes and was faced with challenges to provide it’s typically in-person student services. One of those services was Gallaudet’s Job ... Read more

Disney TV Animation Casting Wheelchair Users

Disney TV Animation
CASTING: A new Disney TV Animation series is searching for young girls that are authentic wheelchair users to play lead characters. JAZZY – 7 to 8 year old sounding real kid or teen (age range 7 to 17, as discussed also open to naturally young sounding adults), female, character is Black, singing ability is ... Read more

Jess Orcsik — Focus on Ability Short Film Festival

Jess Orcsik
Good things come from Down Under. One in particular—the Focus On Ability Short Film Festival—celebrates films examining the abilities of people with disabilities. Now in its 10th year, the festival is the brainchild of Martin Wren, CEO of Nova Employment. Wren’s inspiration for the festival was to end bullying in schools by educating youth ... Read more

Katherine Beattie — Write What You Know

Katherine Beattie NCIS writer and wheelchair mx-er
A few months ago, my friend Jan Hoag e-introduced me to Katherine Beattie. She said, “I can’t believe you two haven’t met! You have all the same life experience!” Now I’ve never met someone with my life experience in Hollywood, so I was looking forward to seeing what Jan meant. As soon as we ... Read more

Leo Fender — A Music Legend

Leo Fender
Leo Fender was a man whose influence resonates around the world. In just about any public space—stage, restaurant, mall, you name it—the American inventor’s impact is spoken through the ambient acoustics of the electric guitar. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find an influential guitarist of rock ‘n roll or country western ... Read more

Poetry in Motion — Performers with Disabilities

Poetry China
China’s first special art performance to combine music, dance, and poetry by people with disabilities sowed seeds of appreciation in viewers. Whether these seeds continue to germinate with similar performances in the future, the experience pulled on the audience’s heartstrings, which is perhaps the greatest reward any poet could hope for. The expression “Poetry ... Read more