According to the CDC, over a quarter of the U.S. population has some kind of disability. Yet those with disabilities are often not represented in movies and television.

Enter Differently Abled Entertainment (DAE), a Tucson nonprofit trying to expand the faces we see onscreen and change the way we look at the disabled community.

The organization provides acting classes for people with disabilities and other marginalized groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

Founder Jon-Lee Jonni Campbell started the group in 2021 to provide opportunities for people not typically seen onscreen.

She hopes to change the faces we see, along with the stories told in movies and TV.

Films or TV shows that deal with disabled characters, its kind of the same regurgitated storyline, Campbell says. Its only about whats wrong with them or what theyre doing to get over whats wrong with them. And its never about just the person themselves.

Campbell suffered a car accident when was 16, which left her using a wheelchair ever since. While acting in student productions in high school and college, the head of her theater department suggested she get involved with backstage production and directing because she would face obstacles as an actress with a disability.

The genesis of DAE came when Campbell was stuck in a hospital bed in 2020, struggling with health problems. She imagined an organization that would promote and encourage differently-abled artists in the entertainment industry.

The idea came as those with disabilities are rarely seen in high-profile movies or television shows. According to Nielsen, people with visible disabilities only make up 0.4% of total screen time.

At the same time, actors playing people with disabilities have won Oscars for their portrayal. This is one of the things Campbell looks to change.

The disabled community is usually only represented in film and TV one or two percent of the time, she says. Within the one or two percent of the time that the disabled community is represented, those roles are played by able-bodied actors.

Marissa Ray-Reyes is one of the students taking acting classes at DAE. She started acting at age five, appearing onstage with community theater groups in Ohio and high school plays. She says that the organization gives her a safe space to develop her talents.

Here, you get to be yourself, no matter what disability you have, she says. They accept you for you.

The next round of classes at DAE begin on April 8. Monday classes are held in the morning and afternoons, while Tuesday classes are held in the evenings at 2405 N. Castro Ave. Unit 140. Those interested can register on the DAE website. Differently Abled Entertainment will also hold its monthly Full Moon Festival on April 26.

Donations to DAE can be made by texting DAE to 53-555. The organization is also looking for volunteers to work with aspiring actors from the differently-abled community.