disability awareness

AZ Board of Regents committee rejects new major of Disability Studies

In a column for the Phoenix New Times NCDJ Advisory Board member Amy Silverman advocates for the creation of a Disability Studies major at Arizona universities. A sub-committee of The Arizona Board of Regents accepted requests for new majors last week and approved all the proposed majors except for Disability Studies. Silverman argues that there is a market demand for expertise related to disability issues. Click here to read Silverman’s full column.

Ford Foundation sharpens focus on sponsoring disability rights

A new essay by the Ford Foundation’s Program Officer, Noorain F. Khan, outlines their expanding  philanthropic initiatives to support disability rights. Below is an excerpt from the essay. Click on the heading to read the full essay and learn more about all the excellent disability-related organizations they’re sponsoring, including the NCDJ.

Why disability rights are central to social justice work—and what we’re doing about it

Last fall, Darren Walker wrote an essay urging all of us to acknowledge our personal biases, and to understand how those biases can fuel injustice and inequality. Darren’s call grew out of his own awakening: the realization, brought to light by friends and activists, that for all the foundation’s attention to challenging inequality, we hadn’t accounted for the huge community of people living with disabilities. It was a humbling moment, he wrote.

As the past year has shown, it has also proven to be a consequential one. It quickly became clear that our focus on inequality demands that we think seriously about disability issues. It became equally clear that across all our programs, the specific outcomes and goals we’re working to achieve simply cannot be accomplished without addressing the needs, concerns, and priorities of people with disabilities. And so, guided by the disability movement’s mantra, “nothing about us without us,” we’ve been working to confront ableism and expand participation and inclusion on both the institutional and individual levels. It turned out we had a lot to learn.

As the program officer in the office of the president, I steward some of the foundation’s exploratory grant making under Darren’s direction, assessing and investing in new ideas that don’t yet have a home elsewhere in the foundation. Among those efforts, I lead our exploration of how inequality impacts the more than one billion people with disabilities around the world. Over the past year, I’ve met with more than 80 activists, leaders, self-advocates, and funders who focus on people with disabilities. It has been a profound privilege to spend time with and learn from them, and the result has been what I believe is some of the most urgent and meaningful work of my professional life. (Click here to continue reading…)

Upcoming Hollywood films about disability attract criticism for lack of authenticity

Several recent films produced by Hollywood studios and starring celebrity actors are frustrating disability advocates for their lack of diversity and authenticity. Examples include Todd Haynes’s film Wonderstruck starring Julianne Moore as a deaf woman, David Gordon Green’s Stronger starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a double-amputee, and Andy Serkis’s Breathe starring Andrew Garfield as a polio patient who becomes a quadriplegic. A recent article in USA Today explains why disability advocates are raising awareness about the lack of casting diversity and how filmmakers are responding.

Article excerpt: So what can Hollywood do to give more visibility? Lauren Appelbaum, communications director for RespectAbility, a non-profit organization working to fight stigmas and create opportunities for people with disabilities, urges studios to look to TV, where actors such as Stranger Things‘ Gaten Matarazzo (who has cleidocranial dysplasia, a rare growth disorder) and NCIS: New Orleans‘ Daryl Mitchell (who is paralyzed from the chest down) play roles that don’t hinge on them being disabled.

“Actors with disabilities could easily play roles that neither hide nor emphasize their disability,” Appelbaum says. “For example: a doctor who uses a wheelchair or a scientist with cerebral palsy. By including characters with obvious and hidden disabilities in scripts and story lines, films can create more authenticity within entertainment.”

 

AZ Commissioner for Deaf and Hard of Hearing gives advice to employers

Today, October 31st, is the last day of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The goal of NDEAM is to promote resources for employees with disabilities and their employers. Ted Simmons of Arizona PBS recently interviewed Pv Jantz about resources offered by the Arizona Commission of the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing. Jantz, who is deaf, says employers shouldn’t assume what type of accommodation a new co-worker needs. The best approach is to ask the employee what they prefer as an individual. Workers with disabilities tend to be experts on which accommodations best fit their individual needs. Jantz also recommends the website www.AskJAN.org (the Job Accommodation Network) as a resource for employers and employees with disabilities.

Romanian mother resolves to change disability language in her country

By Jenna Miller

Nine years ago when Ruxandra Mateescu’s daughter, Olga, was born with special needs, she was stunned at the lack of information and the gaps in care.

“When Olga was born I tried to look up with Google what retarded means because the doctor said when she grew up she would be retarded or maybe dead or a vegetable. He used words like that,” Mateescu said in a Skype interview.

Mateescu lives in Bucharest, the capital city of Romania and is fluent in both English and Romanian. People with disabilities don’t have many rights in Romania, and much of the public is uninformed about disability issues, “like the fifties in the United States,” she said.

In addition, the Romanian health care system is difficult to navigate, Mateescu said, and she couldn’t figure out where to go to get more information about her child. Even after nine years and many doctors visits, Olga has never had an official diagnosis to classify her disability.

A journalist who worked for a parenting website, Mateescu did what came to her naturally: She started blogging about her daughter, their lives and the struggles she faced trying to find information and support. Other parents responded and asked her to keep writing. She now runs a website that features stories of people with disabilities and their families.

“I started writing when I was very angry, so my writing was very angry on everybody,” she said. “Many of them [other parents] told me that I was courageous… I don’t know.”

Mateescu said it was taboo in her country to even talk about disabilities when she started her blog, but the situation is slowly improving. Now there are more blogs devoted to the subject and mainstream media also has begun to show interest. However, Mateescu calls most of the reporting shallow and says the focus is “on the pity element.” Pejorative language and offensive terms are still common in mainstream news both on television and in newspapers.

“If experienced journalists are doing that, they don’t realize that it is wrong,” she said “Somebody has to say, it’s not okay– this is how you do it.”

One day Mateescu was searching the internet for resources on disability issues and she happened upon the National Center on Disability and Journalism’s style guide, which provides guidance on words and terms related to disability. She thought it would be a great help to journalists and communicators in her country, but there was a problem: The English language guide would have to be translated into Romanian.

She started by sending an email to the center at Arizona State University asking for permission to undertake a translation. “I wrote and I said, ‘Well, they will never answer back they are huge,’ and I received the email one morning, and I was like ‘Wow, they answered.’ We are not used to that reaction of kindness.”

Across the world in Phoenix, Arizona, NCDJ Director Kristin Gilger said she had long hoped to have the guide, which contains almost 100 words and terms, translated into other languages. She immediately said yes.

Mateescu then put out a call on social media for help. Seven volunteers responded — friends, relatives and even an English teacher who happened to be her manicurist’s husband. Together they combed through the guide. Some words didn’t translate or didn’t exist in Romanian. For those, the group did their best to supply the closest Romanian approximation. They worked quickly. It took one week to translate the guide and another to check it and get it ready for publication.

Once completed, Mateescu tried to get the style guide out to as many people as possible by posting it on her website and on social media. She said she immediately starting getting “likes” and “shares.” She is now setting up meetings with journalists and parents to discuss the guide and advocate for its use by Romanian journalists.

Along with improvements in language, Mateescu hopes to see more investigative stories about the lack of support and infrastructure for people with disabilities in her country. According to a report compiled by the Academic Network of European Disability Experts, 24 percent of children with disabilities in Romania are not registered for any form of education. The 24 percent includes Mateescu’s daughter, Olga.

The situation isn’t much better for adults with disabilities. The same report shows that fewer than 16 percent of people with disabilities are employed. It is common for people to stop and stare at people with visible disabilities in public. And Mateescu says it’s almost impossible for people with physical disabilities to get around her home city of Bucharest. Many public buildings, busses and metro stations don’t have elevators or ramps, and most homes are difficult to get into and out of for those using wheelchairs.

Mateescu says it is painful to think about the challenges her daughter will face when she grows up, but she tries to focus on fighting for the things she can change.

“I don’t know if my daughter will have some benefits from that, but, for sure, the next generation of parents will be much better off than my generation is now,” she said.

Resources from Mobility International USA for travelers with disabilities

Mobility International USA promotes disability rights by facilitating international exchange for travelers with disabilities. They have several media publications including 1) a general “News & Events” page with travel blog posts from around the world 2) “A World Awaits You (AWAY)” periodical about specific regions such as Africa, and 3) “Ripple Effects,” a podcast of interviews with recent exchange travelers.

NCDJ featured in CJR article on tips for covering disability beat

Wendy Lu from the Columbia Journalism Review interviewed NCDJ Director Kristin Gilger about this site’s advice for covering disability beats. Some top recommendations include being wary of “inspiration porn” and avoiding words that “assume a negative relationship between people and their disabilities (e.g. wheelchair-bound).” Check out more tips from the article by clicking HERE.