Disability Advocate James LeBrecht Blasts CBS for Not Making Accessible Ramp on Emmys Stage Easily Visible on TV

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Disability rights advocate James LeBrecht is “furious” with CBS after it seems the network didn’t fulfill its promise to install a fully accessible, visible ramp on the Emmys stage.

“They lied to me,” LeBrecht told Variety Sunday while watching the awards show. “I got my hopes up.”

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Ahead of the Emmys, LeBrecht, who co-directed the Oscar-nominated “Crip Camp,” and the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund filed a complaint of ADA violations, after being informed that the stage, built inside a tent on the L.A. Live Event Deck in downtown Los Angeles, was inaccessible from a front approach.

But on Friday, LeBrecht told Variety that he received a letter from CBS informing him that their concerns were being addressed. “CBS Entertainment has informed my lawyers DREDF and Michelle Uzeta that anyone sitting in the audience will have unimpeded access to an ADA-compliant ramp to the stage, and that the ramp has been constructed as a fully-integrated, visible portion of the stage,” he said. “I look forward to watching an accessible awards show that includes people with disabilities.”

In a letter from CBS on Friday, an attorney for the network wrote that not only would the ramp be visible to the audience at the ceremony but also to television viewers. While there was a black ramp at the main stage, it was barely visible to television viewers.

“That was really the crux of it all, which is for the entertainment industry and the Television Academy to show that we want people with disabilities to participate and here’s this symbol of our commitment to that,” LeBrecht said on Sunday. “Not only did they have more than enough time to do this the right way, but they lied to me. I’m furious.”

On Wednesday, TV Academy president Maury McIntyre and chairman/CEO Frank Scherma told Variety that CBS was officially responding to initial concerns.

McIntyre said the show was “fully ADA compliant. Both shows the Creative Arts had a lift for the stage, which was placed right next to the stage for anyone who might have needed it. And I know for the main show, we’re actually going even further than that. We fully appreciate both the visibility of showing that we are supportive and accessible. We’ve gone out to all of the attendees, asking anybody if they need special assistance. We’ve got two people dedicated to making sure that we have offered an accessible experience for everyone. And we take that very seriously.”

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