I am making a feature-length documentary film about Lott Industries, a company in Toledo, Ohio, that employs 1200 people with developmental disabilities. For decades the company has excelled in building car parts. However, with the decline of the auto industry, Lott Industries is struggling. The company must reinvent itself in order to protect the livelihoods of their disabled employees. My film, entitled “A Whole Lott More”, offers insight into the evolving world of work for people with developmental disabilities and asks the question: how can more disabled workers be integrated into the wider community?
Twenty years have passed since the passing of the ADA - the Americans with Disabilities Act. Still, people with disabilities are often shut out of opportunities to work. 81 percent of Americans with disabilities do not have a job and, for those with developmental disabilities, the statistics are even worse. Many of those who do have jobs rely on environments like Lott Industries for their livelihood and their futures. The film imagines a world where disabled people can have greater job opportunities.
We are following six characters in the film:
TJ Hawker, a Paralympian, has cerebral palsy and is deaf. TJ loves his job at Lott but hopes one day to work in wider community if the right opportunity arises. He is considering going to college.
Wanda Huber, a 'material handler' at Lott, has seen, far too often, how the non-disabled treat the disabled - as if they were invisible. She has become an advocate for the disabled and she helps to organize a workers’ group at Lott.
Our third character is a young autistic man who is hoping to get a job. We are following him on interviews but Toledo has been heavily affected by the recession - in fact it is the 9th poorest city in the USA. Even basic jobs are hard to come by. Employers are especially reluctant to hire someone with a disability.
We are also following Joan Browne and Joe Murnen, the people who run Lott Industries. The company faces major challenges as a result of the recession and the loss of Lott’s main contract with Ford. Several states have forced disabled workplaces to close entirely – but this has often led to the disabled staying at home and not working at all. How can Lott bring in new business and also make its workfloor more modern and integrated? Can Lott develop a new model for disabled workplaces - one that can be emulated across the country and across the world?
We also follow Mikey, an adult with a disability who works at a family-owned local restaurant. He has never missed a day of work in twenty-three years. Mikey represents how someone with a disability can excel at a job. But he needed an employer to give him a chance.
Sara, who is blind, is a community outreach specialist for a local Toledo college. She is a strong believer in inclusion – the term used in the disability world to describe how people with disabilities should mix with the non-disabled. She is also the mother of an awesome two year-old!
Together, these dynamic and inspiring individuals will tell the story of disabled work today - the progress that has been made but also the significant advances that still have to take place. If you are someone with a disability, or a parent, friend or advocate for someone with a disability, or just someone who believes that we must do better to treat the disabled like equals - then you will understand why this film is important. Very few films have been made about the working world for the disabled and “A Whole Lott More” aims to address an underreported and underrepresented issue.
We have raised $50000 for the film from two foundations: The Loreen Arbus Foundation and the Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation. But that's only enough to take us through some shooting - we need $15000 right away to edit the footage we have shot into a 30-minute piece. We will put this edit on our upcoming website and, very importantly, we will use it to get the attention of major broadcasters who have already expressed an interest in the film.
October is National Disability Awareness Month in the US. We hope you will help us acknowledge that month by making a contribution to the film. We have an awesome list of thank-you gifts – you will get something great back in return for your contribution! And you will be supporting a film that aims to bring a key issue to national and worldwide attention. You will be making a difference!
All contributors will receive regular newsletters detailing how their money is being spent and about how the project is developing. Please feel free to ask us any questions about the project via our contact info on this page. We thank you in advance for supporting this important and fascinating documentary film. TOGETHER WE CAN SHOW THE WORLD A WHOLE LOTT MORE!
Please note that the film has 501c3 Charity Status. ALL CONTRIBUTIONS ARE TAX DEDUCTIBLE!!!
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