On Wednesday, April 25 the National Center for Disability and Journalism partnered with Ability 360 and the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council to host a workshop titled “Improving Disability Communication” for local public information officers.
The goal of the workshop was to introduce public service employees to disability communication topics, styles and perspectives.
Activities included tutorials about disability language style and tips on making digital media accessible. Participants heard insightful testimonies from people with a variety of disabilities as well as local reporters who shape mass media stories.
Agency representatives at the workshop came from Department of Economic Security, Department of Transportation, State Parks and Trails, Department of Health Services and many others. A similar workshop is planned for September 21 at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in downtown Phoenix and host local journalists and public relations executives.
Students at Columbia are seeking help from disability rights lawyers to convince university housing officials that multiple assistance animals are a medically required disability accommodation. Olivia Deloian of the Columbia Chronicle interviewed business major Lindsey Barrett who says her therapist prescribed dog companionship to treat symptoms of adjustment disorder. The problem is, Barrett already has an emotional support cat for her severe anxiety disorder, which means she needs new approval from Columbia to house the second animal. Deloian carefully describes her journalism process in contacting Columbia officials to request their side of the disagreement. With Barrett’s help, Deloian also provides a useful explanation of the distinction between emotional support animals and other service animals.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released a statement condemning the imprecise language recently used by public figures to discuss the connection between mental health and mass shootings. President Trump and Dana Loesch, a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, used words including “sicko,” “nuts” and “crazy person” to describe the diagnoses of mass shooter Nikolas Cruz. The NAMI statement criticizes such comments as reinforcing “inaccurate and negative stereotypes” that “create barriers to having real conversations about how to improve the mental health services that lead to recovery and participation in American society by people experiencing mental health conditions.” CNN.com interviewed several mental health experts who also suggested that mental illness is not a reliable condition for predicting violent behavior.Click here to read NAMI’s statement and click here to read CNN’s article.
The Chicago Tribune published a followup investigative report to its award-winning story “Suffering in Secret” and unfortunately the promised reforms of Illinois group homes have not materialized. Michael J. Berens, the reporter who co-wrote “Suffering in Secret” with Patricia Callahan, penned the update and highlights several specific problems the group homes failed to correct. The story also features a compelling video interview with Peggy Strong, the mother of a daughter with disabilities whose health improved after being moved from a group home to a large institutional facility. Click here to read the article and click here to watch the video interview.
Disability rights activists were arrested by Capitol Hill police on Tuesday during a House Rules Committee hearing on H.R. 620. The protesters oppose policy reforms that would change ADA regulations regarding complaint waiting periods. Click here to read Cristina Marcos’s full report on TheHill.com.
Hospitals frighten many patients but they can be especially confusing and traumatic for people with dementia. According to a story for the Boston Globe by Felice J. Freyer, hospitals in Massachusetts are making an effort to better accommodate patients with memory loss. Freyer reports that the loud, high-tech hospital environment is disorienting to patients with “fragile minds,” and staff frequently rely on sedatives to calm confused patients. Freyer interviewed family caregivers, Alzheimer’s advocacy groups and hospital executives to learn more about the problem and how hospitals are making improvements.
If a hospital fails to identify symptoms of a debilitating disease in infants it could spell disaster for patients as they grow up. In her story “Doomed by Delay,” Chicago Tribune investigative journalist Patricia Callahan describes the struggles of parents of children with Krabbe disease who weren’t properly diagnosed until it was too late to salvage their motor functions. Callahan is the 1st place co-winner, along with Michael J. Berens, of the NCDJ’s 2017 Katherine Schneider Award for Disability Journalism.