Non-profit for people with disabilities honors Ebert

June 9, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Access Living's "Lead On!" awards are presented to individuals for their contributions to empowerment of people with disabilities. This year Ebert is the recipient, and he will be celebrated at Navy Pier Thursday night at "A Night with Roger Ebert."

"I've known about it for a much longer time than I've been disabled, and I've know its founder Marca Bistro for more than 25 years so this is an honor that's meaningful to me personally," Ebert said.

Since becoming disabled, Ebert uses a customized text-to-speech software. He has become a strong advocate for people with disabilities.

"I write about my own life and my own disabilities. I hope that it helps people understand that a disability is not something that happens only to other people," Ebert said. "By continuing to do my work, I show that it's not the end of the world."

As a film critic, Ebert reviews thousands of movies every year. He also predicts Oscars nominees and winners. Often, those who get nominated play characters with disabilities. The first time ABC7's Karen Meyer interviewed Ebert was in the late 1990s, and she asked him about this.

"I think the voters vote for the disability. They feel sorry for the characters," Ebert said.

When asked if he still feels this way, Ebert replied: "Yes I still do. All sorts of emotions go into Oscar votes and some of them have nothing to do with the performances themselves. Voters sometimes vote to show their sympathy with the characters. This is a fact of life."

Now that he is living with a disability he understands.

"I think it helps me that I know a little more," Ebert said.

Ebert continues to do what he loves most and is never lost for words. If someday there's a biopic made about him, he hopes that George Clooney will play him.

"He looks just like me. He looks just like me," Ebert said.

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