By: Kelly Hinchcliffe, Poynter
Student journalist Drew Dees is kind but firm when he interviews people for his Florida college TV station.
Please stand up, he instructs them. Don’t crouch down in front of me. I’m not a baby.
He understands that people might not be used to seeing a journalist in a wheelchair — he never saw any on TV when he was growing up — but he demands to be treated the same as any other reporter.
“One of the big barriers in this career field is getting people to … take you seriously,” he said.
A 24-year-old junior at the University of Florida, Dees said he’s had overwhelming support from his family and professors as he pursues a degree in broadcast journalism. His dream of being an on-air reporter and anchor feels even more real now that his insurance company has agreed to provide him with a new $50,000 wheelchair. The Permobil F5 Corpus VS chair will allow him to move from a sitting position to standing with the touch of a button.
“It’s just going to make such a world of difference for me,” he said. “Just to be able to stand up and be able to talk to people on eye level and not have to look up at someone; that’s just the most amazing feeling to me.”
The chair will also allow him to do what’s known in TV news as a standup, where a reporter shares information on camera while standing or walking.
“It’s going to allow me to be more creative, to have more of that demonstrative standup that we look for instead of just being a talking head,” he said.
Dees got a test run of the new chair during a recent fitting to make sure it’s properly adjusted to his body. The chair won’t be ready for several months, but Dees was so excited that he posted a picture on social media of him using the chair to stand up. On a whim, he shared that photo and story in a journalism Facebook group that has about 15,000 members.