Los Angeles (Oct. 6, 2011) — Actor Marlee Matlin was honored today with the 2011 Screen Actors Guild Harold Russell Award at the 2011 Media Access Awards. The awards, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., aims to raise awareness of people living with disabilities and seeks to have them represented accurately in television and film.
The award came as a surprise to Matlin while she was hosting the annual awards breakfast. In accepting the honor, Matlin rallied her entertainment industry colleagues to continue to push for more recognition of the talents of those with disabilities.
“We’re not done yet and we’re going to continue to make noise, to make things happen, and to make it equal for each and every one of us,” Matlin said.
Matlin, who is deaf, has served as an inspiration to those with or without disabilities since her breakout role in the 1986 film Children of a Lesser God, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. She has an impressive body of work, including appearances in The L Word, Switched at Birth, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Law & Order: SVU, Seinfeld, The West Wing, Celebrity Apprentice and Dancing With the Stars.
Click here to download a photo of Matlin accepting her award, signing "Thank you." Photo credit: Screen Actors Guild.
“Having been given a Media Access Award after her performance in Children of a Lesser God, the SAG Performers with Disabilities Committee felt it was important to recognize Ms. Matlin now, as she has since become one of the world’s foremost performers and staunchest advocates for greater inclusion of people with disabilities,” said Adam Moore, SAG interim national director, Affirmative Action & Diversity.
The event was timely, coinciding with National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the recent release of a study by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) that shows that characters with disabilities represent less than 1 percent of all scripted series regular characters on the broadcast networks.
Robert David Hall, who plays coroner Dr. Albert Robbins on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, presented the award to Matlin. Hall said that while the results of the study showed that there is still a long way to go, there has been improvement since his early years as an actor.
“We were either ignored or dismissed when I first started. If you were a person in a wheelchair, a blind woman, a deaf actor, nobody took you seriously. They thought you would slow production down; they thought they would have to explain your disability and therefore they couldn’t put you in a show. And it’s changed,” Hall said.
He said he appreciated the efforts that helped spur that change.
“I love that we celebrate excellent work by actors with disabilities and I love that my unions have always been out in front of this issue,” Hall said.
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.
Other winners at the Media Access Awards include:
AFTRA Disability Awareness Award – Geri Jewell (The Facts of Life)
Casting Society of America Award – Sharon Bialy and Sherry Thomas (Breaking Bad)
Producers Guild of America George Sunga Award – Paul Stupin (Switched at Birth)
Writers Guild of America, West Evan Somers Memorial Award – Jason Katims (Parenthood)
Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Scholarship – Teal Sherer (Warm Springs)
RJ Mitte Diversity Award – Abbey Umali (Lucky)