Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

For All Abilities

Aug 10, 2020

For All Abilities – The Podcast Episode Thirty Three - Becky Kekula - DisabilityIN/Advocating for Others and Yourself Part Two


In this episode, I interview Becky Kekula of DisabilityIN. On the podcast, Becky continues talking life as a Little Person. We discuss her transition from a career in the film/tv industry into her work at DisabilityIN and the importance of advocacy. 

To connect with Becky, please follow her  on LinkedIn (Becky Kekula) and visit her website at  


Go to our website for information on our software that enables employers to support their employees with ADHD, Dyslexia, Learning Differences and Autism.

Thanks for listening! 




<b>Thanks for listening to For All Abilities today! </b>


Share the podcast with your friends, they’ll thank you for it!


Get our newsletter and stay up to date! The newsletter link is on our website


<b>Follow me</b>


<b>Twitter</b>: <a href="">@betsyfurler</a>


<b>Instagram: </b><a href="">@forallabilities</a>


<b>Facebook: </b><a href="">@forallabilites</a>


<b>LinkedIn</b>: <a href="">@BetsyFurler</a>


<b>Website</b>: <a href=""></a>


Full Transcription from




Betsy Furler  0:05  

Welcome to for all abilities, the podcasts. This is your host, Betsy Furler. The aim of this podcast is to highlight the amazing things people with ADHD, dyslexia, learning differences and autism are doing to improve our world.


Unknown Speaker  0:33  

Hi, everybody, welcome back to for all abilities the podcast. Today we're going to have the second part of my interview with Becky Kekla. Ireally hope I'm pronouncing her name right. That's so hard for me. Her main name is current so you may know her as Becky Curran. She currently works for disability in but she has has had such an amazing


Betsy Furler  0:59  

roller coaster career and just twists and turns, and she's a little person. And when we last left off, if you didn't listen to the other episode, you really should go back and listen to that. But when we left off and the first episode with her, she was still in college, she was about to graduate and she had gotten this awesome opportunity to be a stand in for an actor in a film that was being filmed in her college town. And unfortunately, the taping the filming of it conflicted with her college schedule, so she had to turn down that great opportunity, but it has led her to so many more interesting things. So please listen to Becky and I talking about her career and her life and how she has become such an advocate for people with all types of disabilities.


Becky Kekula  1:55  

And then after the summer,


Unknown Speaker  1:57  



Becky Kekula  2:00  

While in college I haven't really mentioned it yet, I decided that I wanted to learn more about being a part of the little people community. It was up until college that I really didn't have any other friends who were little people other than maybe some people we would see at the doctor every year. It wasn't very often where we'd see the same people every year. But if we got along with them, maybe we'd stay in touch as pen pals. But I was not really close to the community. And I think once my friends in high school started dating, the later years after my back surgery, and even in college, watching a lot of people dating and not really finding my place of where I fit in in those scenarios. I was convinced to go to a little people convention that was happening in the Boston area in 2003. And I ended up meeting friends from all over the country and continue to meet people from


All over the world. I just like in any environment, you filter through those who you have similar values to and then there could be some that you have nothing in common with. But I had over the years while I was in college, gotten very close to a tight knit group of people who lived in Southern California. And I thought, Okay, this ties in nicely to my desire to work in the film industry. So while I was finishing the casting opportunity for the film underdog, I was networking out in out in Los Angeles, just remotely trying to figure out how to get myself out there, where I could really be in the deep parts of the industry. And one of my friends, he had a talent manager, he was an actor. He asked me if I wanted to come work with her and I thought, great, I'll go give it a try. Let's Let's do this. I learned about casting this summer. Now. When about talent management. And she also happens to be another little person. And I got out to LA, my parents, they wanted to support me as best they could. They made sure that before I moved to Los Angeles, I had a job and a place to live set up, because they weren't going to support me if I just was going out there without an agenda. So we have the job. I stayed with friends for a while, thought everything was set up. And the minute I got to LA, I found out that that job opportunity was not there. Wow, that I was going to have to start the search. on my own. I luckily had, I had already done some networking. I was networking with people who were alumni of Providence college who lives out in Los Angeles, and just anyone who lived out there and even had a connection to marketing in general, even if it wasn't film industry related. So I To take a bunch of coffee meetings, I ended up picking up a Hollywood creative directory where they had names and addresses of places. And I just started sending out resumes like crazy. I sent out 1000 resumes, and then went on 100 interviews, sometimes up to four interviews a day. And back to that constructive feedback piece. I wish if I went back to that time in my life, that people were more willing to tell me if I was making mistakes in the way that I interviewed. Or, of course, after four interviews a day I had to be exhausted by that fourth interview. And it just felt like kind of going through the motions without really getting any feedback. Other than we're going to hire internally, we're going into a different direction with this position. There was nothing ever of like you want to do this differently next time. So after about four months, I decided to go with some tech placement agencies, so I could have an honest conversation with these recruiters. And then they could pitch me to just go show up at a job. And that ultimately ended up being the best strategy because people couldn't tell me that I can't show up for the job that I'm told to show up for. Because the recruiter would be able to stand up for me and say, You have no real reason to tell them to go home.


Betsy Furler  6:27  

Right, right. Wow. It was a long process and you had so much work experience before you even graduated from


Becky Kekula  6:37  

Glee that's the thing I had to at least been qualified. I wasn't applying for like high level jobs. This these were very much entry level. You must have a few internship experiences under your belt, not anything that was like, way above like I was expecting this huge position.


Unknown Speaker  6:56  

Right? Right.


Betsy Furler  6:59  

So So what did you do after that? And then how did you finally get to disability em?


Becky Kekula  7:08  

So, so the reason why I do the work that I do now is because I don't want people to go through what I went through.


Unknown Speaker  7:15  



Becky Kekula  7:16  

after about three temporary job assignments, I was at the Hallmark Channel for about a month, I worked at this place called trailer park where they make trailers for movies. for about three days, it was around the holiday season. So it wasn't really a specific job other than a gifting because everyone loves giving gifts to all their clients for the holidays. And at that, so this was the end of 2006. And I still didn't have anything secured and it was the middle of January that I finally showed up for my first day at Creative Artists Agency, a talent agency where I ended up working for five years, but it took seven months for me to become a full time employee I was on a temporary employee Up until those seven months and then finally felt like I made my mark to at least have my foot in the door out. After having to say okay, I need benefits like what's happening I'm showing up to work every day it was still a full time opportunity 97 five days a week, but it took a lot of proven myself to get that permanent position. And most assistant stay at an agency for about a year. They don't want to be an agent, they move on. But I just was holding on really tight to that employment opportunity for five years because I didn't know how hard it was going to be to find that next opportunity. And I was in the I started in that entertainment marketing department and then moved over the comedy touring department. And it was only because the marketing department was shifting, and I was kind of at risk if I chose to stay there, just because of purely numbers. It was just people were being moved around. So one of my bosses I had worked for two people. Once I became permanent, I was working for two people. And he brought me to the music department. And then I found out about the comedy department. And it reminded me of the work I did at allied where I went to the movie screenings and filled out what people were reacting to. I had the opportunity to go to comedy clubs, like sometimes I would go to four shows a night, where I would write notes. And these were shows that the agents couldn't get to. But they would be able to gather these notes and decide if they wanted to represent any of the talent that they haven't seen yet, so that they could ask me follow up questions. If there were people I thought were really talented. And once a position became available in that department, I was up for it since I'd been working really hard to contribute up until that point. And while I was in that department, I I enjoyed it. It was fun. To get gain an eye for talent, but I think I just decided after I got to that almost fifth year that being an agent wasn't really the lifestyle I wanted to have, even though it's very lucrative careers. It's very grueling. And I just didn't see myself in that long term career path. So I did start getting the attention of people who worked at the agency, and they asked me what it was I was passionate about. And that was a point where I felt like I could finally say that I was passionate about changing what we see in the media because that affects how people like me are treated in society. And took up until then, for me to be vocal about it because I wanted to be able to prove myself as a hard worker first. And since they started asking, I was able to put together a panel discussion of people with disabilities in front of and behind the scenes in the entertainment industry. I was able to use the theater at the industry. We're at the agency where about 160 people showed up to watch this panel discussion. So it's content people are craving. And it was really talking about the challenges on how we can make more opportunities for people with disabilities, how we can make sure there are more authentic portrayals versus people playing disability, even if it's not their lived experience. And yes, and


Betsy Furler  11:25  

I think that's so important, too. And I think it's so important that if, you know, if they do have to use an actor that doesn't have the disability, they're portraying that they are so careful about how that is that about the accuracy of it and the respectfulness of it? I'm super passionate about it as well, and that they try to cast roles with people with disabilities.


Becky Kekula  11:51  

Yes, so that's the thing. I think even when we talk about inclusion in corporate America, inclusion in the media, make sure that you're at least finding people who fit the description or have the qualifications, and then have them still do the work and interview or audition. And at the end of the day, it's the best person for the job. But if you're not seeking out those people who can do very well, and match that description, you're not doing your due diligence.


Unknown Speaker  12:19  

Right, right.


Becky Kekula  12:22  

So I ended so just kind of fast forward I, through going to different comedy shows, I was recruited to work at CBS television studios and the casting department. And I was there for about a year and then I still just kind of learned about apps. After starting to get really passionate about disability representation and media, I learned that there's still a long way to go. A lot of times, casting directors are going so much of what the description says on a writer's notes. They're not willing to have those conversations about what if we cast someone who's a little different than what you described in your writing. And they're just not enough creativity of thought it's pretty much what you see in the description. Unless it specifically says disability, they're not going to think outside the box, at least at that point in time. I think there has been some progress made with the casting society really trying to do their research and make sure that doesn't continue to happen. But that was happening. I learned about casting from a studio perspective versus working on the set of a movie in casting earlier on. And I thought, okay, I love this. It's great that it influences a lot of people, but they're moving too slow. We need to find a way to get more people represented faster. And while I was kind of deciding after that year that that path wasn't for me either. I found out that my friend to was the one who invited me to come out to LA to work for his man. adjure who then continued to be one of my roommates? He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS, so he had to go back home to Georgia. And I thought, Okay, what am I going to do anyways? I'm not really happy in my job. And I don't really know who I'd want as another roommate in Los Angeles is not cheap to live in, alone. And I thought, all right, even though it took me a really long time to get to where I am here, I think I need to go home and refresh. It was really hard to make that decision especially after the hundred interviews and really trying hard to get that first job. But I needed to just figure out how I could make change faster. From a personal influence level, when Yeah, and it was hard deciding Okay, cuz then I didn't mean I was gonna have to start the job search process again eventually, but I had the support To move home with my parents still kind of struggled with the fact that I was an adult with a disability living at home after being independent for six and a half years out in LA. But I needed to kind of refresh and my sister asked me, she's a creative writing teacher was at the time in middle school. She asked me if I could come meet her students. And then I thought, you know what, I'm just gonna start telling my story. And I wondered if people wanted to hear it, because I feel like you have to get to a certain level in your career, and then people may want to hear you speak. But then I was surprised. These students just wanted to learn all about me, because my sister had been talking about me for so many years. Uh huh. So I took that opportunity as Okay, I can do this. So I started reaching out to rotary clubs and in college I had started a Toastmasters club and got very involved in Toastmasters even after college, trying to gain more public speaking skills. and gotten involved with National Speakers Association. So I could start having a structure to my storytelling. And I just tried to reach out to as many places as possible, didn't worry about whether they were paid or not. And then it was about six months in. In March 2013, I had reached out to this organization called understanding disabilities and their speaker had dropped out and they said, What's your rate and I had to make up a rate and there was my first paid speech.


Unknown Speaker  16:30  



Becky Kekula  16:32  

And so what I ended up doing during that period of time is I did go to a little people parents meeting so little people organization has regional events throughout the year in the 12 regions of the country. And then they have an annual conference every summer in July, where people come together, from all over the country and world. And in the parents meetings. A lot of these parents. Most of them are average height parents to children. In mature prism, they were talking about the struggles that their children were having transitioning from elementary to middle school or middle school or high school, when they're going to see a whole new environment that may be likely to make fun of them. I thought, Okay, let me talk to the administrators. If, if we make the connection, I'll talk to the administrators, and then it'll be a two pronged approach. I'll talk to the administrators about the accommodations I had. I can't speak to the personal experience of your child, but I can at least set a baseline. And then I'll go in and speak to the whole student body so they can ask me the hard questions versus your child who's transitioning next year and they haven't a lot going on and they don't need to have to answer the questions that are unnecessary. So give them that exposure just like that girl had and had been doing at Providence College despite by going to school there. Right, right. And it ended up being a great way to connect with families within the community and help with those transitions, and then I just kept trying to figure out where how I could get to the older groups because they need just as much education. And well, I was exploring figuring out what to do next. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people know this, just as a speaker on your own, trying to make it and build a career of it takes a very long time. And very hard. You have to have multiple avenues, multiple revenue sources. I ended up being asked to speak in Kenya. So I went and spoke to a little people organization in Kenya. Fortunately, the expenses were paid for. But it was a wonderful experience. But it was after that, that I was like, Alright, I got to figure out like, how do I get out of this house and figure out what's the next chapter for me? And I was able to be very vocal. Okay, I want to be a speaker and will continue to be a speaker. You're on the side, but I need another source of income. I was networking with someone who I met at the panel event I hosted at the agency. And he asked me if I would come work for him in New York at the actors union in the diversity department. And it was nice because it was still being able to use that experience I had from the talent agency in casting. And he said, I totally understand that you do public speaking as well. Happy to support you on that journey too. And it was a nice marriage between speaking and continuing to advocate for underrepresented groups in the entertainment news media. And moving to New York City. from Boston, there were just a lot more opportunities when it came to networking.


So I was there for three and a half years and then I started to learn that the entertainment industry still has a long way to go. They're very focused on box office numbers and not wanting to take the risks that I feel that corporate America is more willing to pay currently, because they know that people with disabilities can add innovation and value to their workplace. There's still a long way to go within corporate america too. But they're moving a little faster. And it was in August of 2017 that I attended my first it was USB lm at the time now disability and conference, and I felt the energy there were people there who were excited about sharing their relationship to disability, opening up about their own story for the first time, since most disabilities are non apparent, people can't see them. And I just felt like this energy that I had never felt before. And that led to an opportunity for me to run the disability Quality Index, which is a benchmark tool that companies take To measure how they're doing when it comes to disability inclusion, and we always say it's a carrot, not a stick. We use it as a way for them to benchmark where they are and determine where they want to go based on their results. And I think it really has gotten people to open up about what it is they want to focus on and what are low hanging fruit and what may be longer term goals. But all of them bring them in a better place to a better place for hiring and retaining employees with disabilities. And they also are setting up the infrastructure. Well hiring we hope because we don't want it to be one thing happens and then the other thing happens, we want it to happen at the same time. And companies who score well on the index are named Best Places to Work for disability inclusion. And when we mean disability inclusion, we mean all disabilities we try to be as broad as possible. There may be some questions that are more specific to some parts of different populations within disability, but we try to be as broad as possible, because we don't want anyone to be left behind. And right there setting up the infrastructure. Those that are named Best Place to Work for disability inclusion can become employers of choice for people with disabilities, and hopefully it will encourage more self identification so people can get the tools and accommodations they need to succeed.


Betsy Furler  22:24  

That's wonderful. Yeah, I think that is, that kind of work just makes such a big difference for everyone out there. And, you know, hopefully in 20 years, the landscape is going to look a lot different for employment of people with all types of disabilities, whether that be something physical that's visible, or something like autism or ADHD or, you know, people with severe medical issues and chronic medical issues. I think that hopefully hopefully our landscape really is changing and I think disability in is making a big Making it making a big dent in that problem?


Becky Kekula  23:05  

Yes, we try. No, we can't we can't do it alone. So we're we're all in this together. And I think absolutely thrilled to know that we're all supporting each other. Because if it was just one person doing everything, it wouldn't be sustainable.


Betsy Furler  23:24  

Yes, yes, we definitely all have to cough I have to coordinate and collaborate. Well, it's been a pleasure to hear your story. And if I know that some of my listeners are going to want to connect with you, how is that? What's the best way for them to connect with you?


Becky Kekula  23:40  

Absolutely. So my website is And that leads to a lot of my social media links, but a lot of them are Becky motivates. Or Becky Kula. You can pretty much find me that way on any of them.


Betsy Furler  23:57  

Awesome. Well, I will put that in the show notes. And it's been a pleasure. Thank you so much again for being on the mic. Yes. And listeners, thank you so much for tuning in, please rate review, subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you're listening to it on. And please follow me Betsy Furler. It's acid. And Frank you are LR, and on LinkedIn, or an Instagram. I'm also at for all abilities on Instagram. And you can find out all about my consulting services and my software that helps people get the appropriate accommodations they need in the workplace at WWW dot for all abilities calm. So I will see you all soon. Thanks so much. Thanks so much for listening to the for all abilities podcast. This is Betsy Furler, your host and I really appreciate your time listening to the podcast. And please subscribe on any podcast app that you're listening to us on. If you like to know more about what we do in our software that helps employer support their employees with ADHD dyslexia, learning differences in autism, please go to www dot for all You can also follow us on Instagram. And you can follow me on LinkedIn at Betsy Furler and Frank, you are le AR Have a great day and we will see you soon.