May 29, 2013, is the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To celebrate, the U.S. Census Bureau has released a “Facts for Features” document that breaks down disability information from the 2010 U.S. Census into easily digestible nuggets perfect for journalists working on stories related to disability.
Some highlights include that 56.7 million people in the United States lived with a disability, that West Virginia had the highest percentage of people with non-institutionalized disabilities and that 23 percent of people with a disability lived in poverty.
In this video, Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher and companion explains how over time, Keller expanded her communication skills to include being able to speak. For decades, Keller was able to interact with others using tactile sign language and other methods. But as the video makes clear, by developing innovative yet simple methods, Keller learned various sounds and words through feeling the vibrations in Sullivan’s face and vocal chords.
At the time when this video was produced, Keller was already involved with the American Foundation and years earlier, she had attended Radcliffe College as well as the Perkins School for the Blind.
Tremendous advances have been made in the medical field within the past decade, thus making it easier for those who lose limbs either in war or for another reason to regain their physical abilities. James Dao talks with veterans who have lost limbs in various wars, as well as experts and others who emphasized the importance of adaptive sports and other support systems to help those with injuries.
According to this article, Rawson-Neal, a psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas, discharged over 400 patients in 2012 alone to other cities and states around the country. The author states that patients were sent to at least 45 other states via Greyhound buses, often to cities in California and Arizona. One person in the article calls the practice “patient dumping” and many view it as risky to send those with mental illness to other cities, particularly where they might not have family or other supports in place.
Other hospitals have discharged those with mental illness in the recent past, but according to officials quoted in the article, hospital staff travel with the patients.
Haller says that journalists often miss opportunities to report on important issues happening in the community of people with disabilities, such as disability rights laws, the lack of accessible housing in various cities or discrimination against people with particular disabilities, for example.
Robitaille also joins the conversation and discusses her views on the state of disability in the news media and how journalism on these topics can be covered more deeply and with greater precision. She explains the complex nature of defining disability on both societal and individual levels, along with the troubles she saw with NPR’s recent reports, “Unfit for Work.”
In this recent article from the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire, reporter Annmarie Timmins provides a deeply personal, detailed perspective on her experience as a person with mental illness. After struggling with whether or not to include her story in the newspaper’s series on mental illness, called “In Crisis,” Timmins has received a great deal of positive feedback. Timmins describes her childhood and the beginnings of her depression, along with the difficulties of psychiatric care (finding and keeping mental health counselors in the state for an extended period of time) and the invaluable support she received from her husband.
The first-person account is part of a larger series at the newspaper called “In Crisis,” which explains the need for a reform of New Hampshire’s mental healthcare system through stories of various people in the state. The home page for this series can be found here.
NPR’s series on disability continues with this story from March 26 heard on All Things Considered. Chana Joffe-Walt explores the seemingly ever-changing and widening definition of disability to include things like depression that, in her words, “can be severe, but things that are often very hard to test for”. Much of the focus in this story centers on the work of disability lawyers and how they have helped create what Jaffe-Walt calls the “disability-industrial complex.”
On Friday, March 22, NPR and Planet Money started a one-week series of stories on the growing number of people with disablities and therefore are unable to work. You can find a link to the main story above along with the first installment of a radio piece by Chana Joffe-Walt as heard on All Things Considered here.
Joffe-Walt helps explain the potential reasons why an increasing number people are considered by the government to be too disabled to work, both through statistics and various charts, as well as through the stories of people she met throughout the country while reporting.
A primary question in the first radio story was: why, with the labor market becoming increasingly technology-based – and thus, less physically demanding overall – are there still so many people being added to “the 14 million Americans who are invisible to the economy?”
The Associated Press recently announced that it is adding an entry to its stylebook to help journalists cover the topic of mental illness in a fair and appropriate manner. Some of their recommendations include being specific when including information about a diagnosis by using the name of the disorder and proper sourcing.
Another aspect of the new entry has ties to the Newtown school shooting in December, 2012. AP cautions not to “assume that mental illness is a factor in a violent crime,” and advises reporters to use more neutral language when describing a condition, such as “has obsessive-compulsive disorder” rather than “suffers from” or similar terms.
The complete AP entry, which will be included in the upcoming Spring edition, can be found at the link above. The National Association of Broadcasters also released a statement on the new addition, which is linked to here.
As Wendell Jamieson recounts in this March 2 story, Joshua A. Miele was injured outside of his Brooklyn home at the age of four, after a neighbor doused him with sulfuric acid. Attempts were made, both immediately following the incident and for years afterward, to reconstruct Miele’s face and other parts of his body that were burned. Efforts were also undertaken to restore his sight, but those were unsuccessful.
Jamieson explains what happened between the Mieles and their next door neighbors in October 1975 as well as the legal and personal tolls that the incident took on everyone involved. The author also discusses outcomes of his injury that have led to more positive things and how Miele helps people with visual impairments in the Bay Area.