It’s 2023, and with the New Year comes a new opportunity for me to focus on what is really important. And no, I don’t just mean petting my cats and annoying them as my husband and I cheer loudly for the Buffalo Bills — although that does top my preferred list of activities, no matter the year (sorry kitties). Instead, I’m referencing the passion that I have for supporting my fellow community of voice actors and, more specifically, disabled voice actors.
As some of you may be aware, I live with a disability. When I was only 22 years old, I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, a really painful chronic condition that can affect mobility. At age 32, the pain became so severe that I had to get a double knee replacement.
Though I am grateful to be gainfully employed as a self-sustaining professional voice actor, I can’t ignore that living with a disability makes it harder for me to do what I do. I doubt there’s any easy field for anyone living with a disability. It just so often feels like the world isn’t made for us, period.
Being An Advocate
It dawned on me sometime this year that I am fortunately in a position where I can enact change within my industry. Armed with this know-how and more than a little bit of frustration with how the entertainment industry as a whole can be shrouded in disability erasure and downright ableism, I partnered up with my friend, Nick Germain. He started the first version of the Disabled Voice Actors Database. Together with a volunteer steering committee, we brought it to its current incarnation today. It’s my pleasure to now introduce this database to you!
Introducing the Disabled Voice Actors Database
Truth be told: the idea for the Disabled Voice Actor Database was inspired by the existence of a few already-existing databases that target other communities within the voice acting world, namely the LGBTQIA+ community (QueerVox) and people of color (PGM VO List).
Although the communities that we serve are different, the premise is the same: to help chip away at the inequality that non-white, non-able-bodied, and non-straight voice actors face within their field. Although we’d all like to think of the entertainment world as progressive, the reality is that disabled actors still make less money and get offered fewer roles than their able-bodied counterparts. Disabled actors are also often passed by for roles that center on disabled stories. A popular hashtag on social is #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs.
It’s our hope that the database will give casting directors easy access to a range of very talented voice actors who happen to also live with a disability. I will sleep well at night if I can know that there is no longer an excuse for anyone to ever say they didn’t cast a disabled voice talent in a role because they “couldn’t find someone.”
The Disabled Voice Actors Database originally started out as a spreadsheet, but it wasn’t long before it outgrew this humble abode. Version 2.0 is snazzier and more user-friendly than ever before. Along with Nick, voice actors Satauna Howery, Tony Jackson, Tyler Berman, and Lindsay Sheppard were also instrumental in making this happen. There was also a team of volunteers that worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure the database was functional.
Of course, a small list of voice actors does not make a database, so if you’re a voice actor with a disability, I would love for you to get in touch and join us! Simply access the intake form at disabledvoiceactors.com. The database is free; we only allow vetted casting directors and other professionals to view it. That makes the general public can’t search for you.
One note: if you’re under 18, you’ll need your parent or legal guardian to complete the intake form.
Are You A Casting Director Or Voice Seeker Looking For Disabled Talent?
Hey! Nice to have you here. I’m happy to share some tips on navigating the disabled voice actor database to send you on your merry way.
- First, go to disabledvoiceactors.com. You’ll see a section called “Voice Seeker Access Request.”
- Fill out your information. The more info you’re able to provide, the easier it will be for our amazing team of volunteers to vet you and grant you access to the database.
- Once you’ve been approved, you’ll receive unique login credentials that you can use to access the database.
- Start perusing and find your next amazing voice talent hire!
Anyone with questions about the database can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll help you. As always, thanks for listening and for following along
Maria Pendolino is a professional voice actor with more than a decade of experience. She also happens to be disabled. Her highly-recognizable cheery voice can be heard from your car radios, televisions, and computer speakers. Brands that have chosen Maria as their voice acting representative include Dannon, Geico, Panera, and many others. Maria is passionate about helping her community both on and offline and feels strongly about building a better industry (and the world) for anyone living with a disability.