The Emmy Awards aired recently, making big news for being one of the first award shows to happen in person since the pandemic hit. There were plenty of beautiful and interesting looks on the red carpet this year. And of course, there were so many great shows up for nominations; I was personally excited to see all the attention for the “Ted Lasso” series and actors. Such an uplifting show!
But the really big news from the 2021 Emmy’s is the (partial) victory for accessibility advocates. James Lebrecht, the Oscar-nominated co-director of the documentary “Crip Camp”, filed an ADA complaint against the Emmy’s. Lebrecht uses a wheelchair fulltime. The complaint stated that people did not have full and equal access to the stage; the planned accommodation was for those with limited-mobility to access the stage by going backstage first, or having a microphone brought to them in the audience. Lebrecht pointed out that separate is never equal.
CBS Entertainment, producers of The Emmy Awards, did indeed build a ramp to provide unimpeded access to an ADA-compliant ramp, as a “fully integrated, visible portion of the stage,” according to this article by The Hollywood Reporter. At first glance while watching, the ramp did not seem to be in place. Only since I was aware of the ramp beforehand did I spot it off to the side. While there are some hard feelings on the placement of the ramp, being that it is not easily visible, I do on some level wonder if the length needed to meet the slope was part of the end design. It was easy to see the venue was quite small.
Another article from Indiewire dug into the issue as well. Show producers asked attendees prior to the show if anyone needed the ramp to access the stage. Lebrecht commented that such a question forces people to disclose they have a disability, even if it is not apparent. And that is separate treatment.
The issue has forced the whole Hollywood industry to take a closer look at what real inclusivity means, so I consider it a minor win. Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (JEDI) must not be an afterthought. People shouldn’t need to file complaints to achieve equity. The ADA exists to ensure all people have access. But that access does not always serve people with dignity. That’s where we as architects and designers can step up.
Inclusivity is something that is personally very important to me. As an Interior Designer, and Registered Accessibility Specialist, I take a lot of pride in ensuring that a successful project with a client has not only met the desired aesthetic and layout, but that the design is also accessible to everyone.