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July 7, 2017

The Ruderman Family Foundation, a leading disability rights group, has come out against the new film Blind, starring Alec Baldwin, in which the actor plays a novelist who loses his sight in a car crash.

The organization, which frequently advocates for the casting of disabled actors and has conducted many studies documenting the lack of opportunity for disabled actors in film, released a statement on Wednesday condemning the movie (directed by Michael Mailer), which co-stars Demi Moore as the wife of an indicted businessman who cares for Baldwin’s character as part of a plea bargain.

“Alec Baldwin in Blind is just the latest example of treating disability as a costume,” said Jay Ruderman, the foundation’s president. “We no longer find it acceptable for white actors to portray black characters. Disability as a costume needs to also become universally unacceptable.”

The private philanthropic group, which was established in Boston in 2002 and is run by the Ruderman family, has also spoken out against depictions of disabled people in films such as Me Before You, which ends with the assisted suicide of its main character, who is paralyzed.

“The upcoming release of the movie Me Before You presents a deeply troubling message to our society about people with disabilities,” Ruderman said in June 2016. “To the millions of people with significant disabilities currently leading fulfilling, rich lives, it posits that they are better off committing suicide.”

Last summer, the foundation released the Ruderman White Paper on Employment of Actors With Disabilities in Television, finding that 95% of disabled characters on television are played by able-bodied performers. At the time, Ruderman lambasted the industry for “systematically casting able-bodied actors portraying characters with disabilities”. Soon after, he and Danny Woodburn, another disabilities activist who portrayed Mickey Abbott on the sitcom Seinfeld, co-authored an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times shedding light on the cause.

Neither Mailer nor Baldwin has responded to the foundation’s claims.

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