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2019 Contest Winners

Our contest archives contain results from every year of the Katherine Schneider Disability Reporting Contest.

Read about the 2019 winners below.


2019 Contest Winners

2013-2021 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability


FIRST PLACE (Large media)

“Living Apart, Coming Undone”

ProPublica and PBS Frontline in collaboration with The New York Times

Joaquin Sapien and Tom Jennings

Overview: The series examined the efforts of New York City to let those with severe mental illnesses live on their own. Reporters obtained about 7,000 pages of records from hospitals, psychiatrists, social agencies and housing programs to reveal how an ambitious housing program left many vulnerable residents in danger. In response to the investigation, a New York federal judge ordered expanded oversight of the housing program.

SECOND PLACE (Large media)

“Trapped: Abuse and neglect in private care”

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting

Audrey Quinn

Overview: The report revealed a history of abuse, neglect and client deaths at facilities run by Bellwether Behavioral Health, the largest group home provider in the state of New Jersey. The episode showed how even as state after state cut ties with Bellwether, New Jersey continued to send nearly 400 of its most vulnerable citizens and $67 million a year in Medicaid to the troubled company. After the investigation, New Jersey ended its relationship with Bellwether.

THIRD PLACE (Large media)



Matt Kielty, Pat Walters and Lulu Miller

Overview: The episodes explore how people with disabilities were targeted for sterilization during the early 20th century as a form of eugenic genocide, but laws permitting forced sterilization have quietly stayed on the books. While the language is now different—swapping terms like “feebleminded” for “mentally incapacitated”—there are still 23 states that allow the sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities against their will if a court decides it is in their “best interest.”


“The parents said it was a special needs bed. The state said it was a cage.”

 The Arizona Republic

Mary Jo Pitzl

Overview: This story exposed the confusion—and potential harm—that happens when bureaucracies can’t see past their rule books to understand the intricacies of the fragile populations they are charged to protect. Pitzl explored one family’s ordeal to win approval for caregivers to use a specialty bed for their developmentally disabled daughter and how the interpretation of a rule took years to untangle.

FIRST PLACE (Small media)

“You’re not alone”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Milwaukee PBS

Overview: The documentary was built on USA Today Network reporter Rory Linnane’s “Kids in Crisis” series. The film encourages young people to seek help for mental health challenges, while calling for greater support from adults and health systems.

SECOND PLACE (Small media)

“We dined with wheelchair users at 4 of Charleston’s top lunch spots. Here’s what they experienced.”

The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina

Hanna Raskin

Overview: Food critic Hanna Raskin had not fully considered the obstacles posed by physical barriers until a group of wheelchair users invited her to a meeting. The diners were concerned about not being able to fully enjoy the city’s celebrated food scene. Raskin proposed that the group visit four celebrated local restaurants at random while she documented their experiences. The end result was a piece highlighting numerous accessibility issues.

THIRD PLACE (Small media)

“Criminalizing disability”

Searchlight New Mexico

Ed Williams

Overview: Williams asked why so many of the state’s special education students ended up in police custody. In collaboration with the local ABC news affiliate, Williams interviewed more than 300 parents, including the mother of Sebastian Montaño, a smart, promising but behaviorally challenged youngster who never received legally required services for his autism. The New Mexico state Legislature conducted hearings and directed the Legislative Education Study Committee to investigate.


“Fighting for personal attendants at the Texas State Capitol”

The Texas Tribune

Edgar Walters

Overview: When Walters learned that Texas lawmakers planned to spend $23 million on a negligible pay raise for personal attendants, he connected with advocate Susie Angel, a woman living with cerebral palsy. His piece explores Angel’s quest for additional funding for her personal attendant, the person who makes it possible for her to live independently.