Hello! I am Eric Ascher. I am currently the Communications Associate at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of society. You might have seen my work before at RespectAbility, The RespectAbility Report, or The Mighty. I’ve also been profiled in Forbes and the Washington Jewish Week.
I also love to write, blog, and podcast about Reality Competition TV Shows. I’ve written liveblogs, recaps and predictions for some of my favorite shows at MjsBigBlog. I also am the cohost and producer of Reality Hour, a podcast about some of these shows.
This website serves as my personal collection of some of my favorite things I’ve worked on, including blog posts, podcasts, videos, and more.
In November 2019 and January 2020, I went to Iowa on behalf of RespectAbility to ask candidates about disability issues and get their responses on video. Here are six blog posts I wrote for The RespectAbility Report about the candidates:
According to GLAAD’s 2018-2019 Where We Are on TV Report, while the 2018-19 television season includes 18 characters with disabilities, versus 16 in 2017-18, that number still vastly underrepresents the actual number of people with disabilities, representing less than one-sixth. Furthermore, while more than one-third of LGBTQ+ adults have a disability, GLAAD’s report found only four LGBTQ+ characters with disabilities.
Ryan O’Connell is helping to change that. His new Netflix series Special premiered earlier this year and broke new ground for representation of LGBTQ+ people and people with disabilities. For Pride Month 2019, RespectAbility asked O’Connell a few questions about his life, intersectionality, and where he hopes Special will go in the future.
This season on America’s Got Talent, we already have seen two acts with disabilities audition. On the season premiere, autistic blind singer Kodi Lee earned the golden buzzer from Gabrielle Union, skipping straight to the live shows. In the second audition episode, Ryan Niemiller, a comedian with a disability in both arms, made it through to the next round with a standing ovation and four enthusiastic yeses. Both acts were extremely talented, but the differences in how they were presented is a great case study in how to accurately and positively portray people with disabilities.
On the season premiere of America’s Got Talent, a 22-year-old blind autistic man sang for the judges and earned the golden buzzer, advancing straight to the live shows. Kodi Lee’s voice and piano skills were exceptional, and it is wonderful to see people with disabilities succeed and be represented on reality television. But unfortunately, the way America’s Got Talent portrayed Lee could have been better.
If you couldn’t tell from everything else on this blog, I love Reality Singing Competitions because I enjoy finding new artists to follow and hopefully see live. My favorite part of each show is the live rounds, for three reasons:
Limited editing means I get a feel for how each artist would fare in concert
New performances from each contestant every week means I have time to get invested in my favorites
I get music to listen to from my favorites while I wait for a full album
Lately, however, American Idol, The Voice, The X Factor, and the Got Talent franchise have been gradually weakening my interest by cutting back on the number of live shows.
This week on NBC, America’s Got Talent: The Champions crowned Shin Lim as the winner of the title “Best In The World.” But there were plenty of other winners on the show, including several talented acts with disabilities who returned to the Got Talent stage to perform for the world once again.
Ever since The Voice season 15 ended and I watched the winning moment out of curiosity, I’ve been thinking about winning moments on these shows. And frankly, it’s been a long time since we’ve had a perfect one. And that was in 2008, when David Cook won American Idol.
Early in the eighth grade, one of my friends posted a video on Facebook using the webcam on his computer and lots of visual effects as a fun waste of time. I decided to steal his idea, making a silly little video that I intended for just my friends to see. This one decision to make and upload a video changed everything.
I did not have the right privacy settings turned on, so anyone could view my profile if they wanted to. Naturally, two of the school bullies found the video, downloaded it and re-uploaded it to YouTube with the comments section turned on. One person wrote “Eric is a r***rd that goes to my school.” As someone who is on the autism spectrum, that really hurt. Other people would walk up to me in the hallway, quoting lines from the video and would just laugh at me. It was horrible, and while I do not think about the situation anymore, I could not stop thinking about it for a long time. This was just one incident in a long personal history of being marginalized and bullied.