celebrity

Hawking’s death prompts debate on disability language

The death this week of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was mourned by millions of fans around the world. His passing also prompted several important conversations about how his disabilities should be discussed in the media, especially in the context of his remarkable professional achievements.

Several disability advocates on Twitter, such as Alice Wong, recommended writers “avoid subjective language” such as “suffered from ALS” and focus on Hawking’s scientific contributions without turning them into “inspiration porn.” Andrew Gurza, a self-described “Professional Queer Cripple” and creator of the podcast “Disability After Dark” wrote an opinion essay for Men’s Health explaining why wheelchair use shouldn’t be described as “confining” or something Hawking was “freed from.”

In an article for the Los Angeles Times, science reporter Jessica Roy quotes several disability experts who agreed Hawking’s advocacy for disability awareness should be more visible. In an interview on Wisconsin Public Radio Lawrence Carter-Long emphasized that Hawking didn’t “overcome his disability to achieve the things he did,” but instead he accomplished them “while he was disabled.”

‘The Silent Child’ about deaf girl wins 2018 Oscar for Best Short Film

A short film about a 4-year-old deaf girl called “The Silent Child” won the 2018 Academy Award for Best Short Film (Live Action). The film’s title character is played by Maisie Sly who is deaf in real life. The film was written by UK actress Rachel Shenton and directed by her fiancé Chris Overton. During the awards ceremony Shenton used American Sign Language to translate her acceptance speech, which doubled as a passionate description of communication challenges faced by children with disabilities.

“Our movie is about a deaf child being born into a world of silence,” said Shenton. “It’s not exaggerated or sensationalized for the movie. This is happening, millions of children all over the world live in silence and face communication barriers, and particularly access to education. Deafness is a silent disability. You can’t see it and it’s not life-threatening, so I want to say the biggest of ‘Thank yous’ to the Academy for allowing us to put this in front of a mainstream audience. ”

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for “The Silent Child”. CLICK BELOW to watch Shenton and Overton’s acceptance speech.

Woodruff wins Cronkite Award and thanks NCDJ

Judy Woodruff received the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism today during a ceremony in downtown Phoenix. The annual award is given to a prominent journalist who embodies the integrity and impeccable professionalism of Cronkite himself. This year’s award was given to Woodruff and her late PBS NewsHour co-anchor Gwen Ifill. Ifill’s brother accepted the award on her behalf.

Woodruff gave an inspiring acceptance speech that can be seen on the Cronkite School’s online Vimeo channel HERE. She encouraged young reporters to pursue investigative journalism and credited the mainstream media for breaking recent headline news about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment scandal and lobbying by the drug industry.

Woodruff also thanked the National Center for Disability Journalism for its work promoting awareness of disability stories. Listen for Woodruff’s kind remarks about the NCDJ and its director Kristin Gilger at minute 4:07 of her speech.