Hollywood producer Deborah Calla and writer-producer Allen Rucker met in 2010, working together to resurrect the Media Access Awards (MAA). Founded in the late 1970s by Norman Lear, Fern Field, and Norman G. Brooks, the MAAs advanced the portrayal and employment of people with disabilities. Unfortunately, after many years of success, the MAA had lost its funding in 2007 and was on hiatus.
Since Deborah and Allen joined forces, they have worked tirelessly to bring back the event to its earlier noteworthiness (and more). The MAAs have made a real difference in Hollywood. According to the Performers With Disabilities Committee at SAG-AFTRA, the 2016-17 TV season included more actors with disabilities as regular characters than at any time in history!
A number of successful TV and film writers and producers, including Betsy Beers and Shonda Rhimes (“How to Get Away with Murder”, “Grey’s Anatomy”), Noah Hawley (“Fargo” “Legion”), David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman (“Stronger”, “Wonder”), have all praised the awards for teaching them the importance of inclusion and depiction of characters with disabilities.
Deborah Calla is a writer, producer, and tireless activist. She has produced and written for film and television, and published three health and fitness books with Putnam and Scholastic. Her work has appeared in many places, including The Huffington Post, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar.
Since 2003, Deborah has chaired the Producers Guild of America Diversity Committee, creating opportunities for producers of diverse backgrounds while promoting stories that accurately reflect the reality of our world. Along with Oscar-nominated producer Lydia Dean Pilcher, Deborah helped launched the Producers Guild of America Women’s Committee in 2013—working toward greater equality for women in front of and behind the camera. She also serves on the advisory board for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.
Allen Rucker grew up in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and holds degrees from the Universities of Washington, St. Louis, Michigan, and Stanford. His near-forty-year writing career includes documentaries, sketch comedy, enumerable network specials, and a dozen books, including a memoir of life after paralysis, ‘The Best Seat in The House: How I Woke Up One Tuesday and Was Paralyzed for Life.”
Allen has won the duPont-Columbia Journalism Award, two Writers Guild of America Awards, and two CableAce Awards, among others. His career as a disability advocate began in 2007, when he was named Chair of the WGA Writers with Disabilities Committee. He writes extensively about disability issues as a contributing editor to “New Mobility”