Ruderman Foundation Awards for Excellence in Reporting on Disability

The 2018 Ruderman Foundation Awards for Excellence in Reporting on Disability is the only journalism contest devoted exclusively to recognizing excellence in the coverage of people with disabilities and disability issues. Click here to read contest details listed in the contest press release.

To enter, visit 2018 Disability Contest.

Past Contest Winners

First place in the 2017 contest went to reporters Michael J. Berens and Patricia Callahan of the Chicago Tribune for “Suffering in Secret” an investigation into the mistreatment of disabled adults in Illinois group homes. Berens and Callahan identified more than 1,300 cases of documented harm since July 2011 in Illinois’ taxpayer-funded group homes and their day programs. The reporters uncovered at least 42 deaths linked to abuse or neglect in group homes or their day programs and uncovered state records of residents fatally choking on improperly prepared food, succumbing to untreated bed sores and languishing in pain from undiagnosed ailments.

The second place Schneider award was given to Brian M. Rosenthal of the Houston Chronicle for an investigation that revealed how Texas officials systematically denied special education services to thousands of children. The seven-part series, “Denied”, found that Texas placed a cap on how many children could receive special education services, saving billions of dollars but denying services to children with disabilities ranging from epilepsy and blindness to autism and attention deficit disorder.

Judges said they were shocked by Rosenthal’s revelations. The state’s actions, they said, showed a complete disregard for children with disabilities and their families.

Third place and a $500 prize went to Mona Yeh, Sonya Green and Yuko Kodama for two radio pieces chronicling the experiences of one wheelchair user trying to navigate public transportation in Seattle. “Dorian Wants Transit Policy Toward Disabled Persons to Change,” aired on the Seattle-Tacoma public radio station 91.3 KBCS and was supported by the Association of Independents in Radio.

Belo Cipriani of The Bay Area Reporter received an honorable mention and a $250 prize for a series, “Seeing in the Dark,” published in the Bay Area Reporter. Cipriani, who is blind, writes about the disabled community in the Bay Area, challenging stereotypes about disability ranging from sex to parenting.

Awards are given to individuals or teams, with prizes of $5,000 for first place, $1,500 for second place and $500 for third place. Judges also may award honorable mentions.

The Schneider award is administered each year by the NCDJ, which is part of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. It is supported by a gift from Katherine Schneider, a retired clinical psychologist who also supports the Schneider Family Book Award, which honors the best children’s book each year that captures the disability experience for children and adolescents. That award is administered by the American Library Association.

Entries are judged by professional journalists and disability experts based on the following criteria:

  • Explore and illuminate key legal or judicial issues regarding the treatment of people with disabilities;
  • Explore and illuminate government policies and practices regarding disabilities;
  • Explore and illuminate practices of private companies and organizations regarding disabilities;
  • Go beyond the ordinary in conveying the challenges experienced by people living with disabilities and strategies for meeting these challenges;
  • Offer balanced accounts of key points of controversy in the field and provide useful information to the general public;
  • Special consideration will be given to entries that are accessible to those with disabilities. For example, broadcast pieces that are available in transcript form and text stories that are accessible to screen readers. All entries will be published on the NCDJ website in accessible formats.

Schneider, who has been blind since birth, hopes the award will help journalists improve their coverage of disability issues, moving beyond “inspirational” stories that don’t accurately represent the lives of people with disabilities. “That kind of stuff is remarkable, but that’s not life as most of us live it,” she said.

The NCDJ, which has been housed at the Cronkite School since 2008, offers resources and materials for journalists covering disability issues and topics. For more information, visit our About page.

For the 2017 winners, visit: https://cronkite.asu.edu/news-and-events/news/chicago-tribune-wins-2017-disability-reporting-award.

For the 2016 winners, visit: http://ncdj.org/2016/10/minneapolis-star-tribune-wins-2016-disability-reporting-award/

For the 2015 winners, visit http://ncdj.org/2015/10/propublica-wins-disability-reporting-award/.

For the 2014 winners, visit http://ncdj.org/2014/10/new-york-times-wins-disability-reporting-award/.

For the 2013 winners, visit http://ncdj.org/contest/first-winners-named-in-disability-awards-contest/.

An archive of previous winning entries is available.