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2020 Contest Winners

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

Read about the 2020 winners below.

2020 Contest Winners

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

FIRST PLACE (Large media)

“The Quiet Rooms”

The Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois

Jennifer Smith Richards and Jodi S. Cohen

Overview: This piece investigated the practice of isolating school children, many of whom have disabilities. The journalists examined records from more than 100 school districts across Illinois, concluding that while seclusion is sometimes legal, in many instances it was used outside the bounds of the law in ways that were cruel and unjustified.

SECOND PLACE (Large media)

“Two Boys with the Same Disability Tried to Get Help”

USA Today

Mike Elsen-Rooney

Overview: Elsen-Rooney explored what happened when the families of two boys from different backgrounds—living just 15 blocks apart in New York City—tried to get help for their children, both of whom struggled to learn to read.

THIRD PLACE (Large media)

“COVID-19 is a Disability Issue”

National Public Radio

Joseph Shapiro

Overview: Shapiro wrote about the specific challenges faced by people with disabilities during the pandemic.


“The Physics, Economics, and Politics of Wheelchairs on Planes”


Michael Schulson

Overview: Schulson takes a look at the science behind airplanes and wheelchairs and examines the challenges faced by people who use wheelchairs 30 years after the passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.

FIRST PLACE (Small media)

“Ignored: South Dakota is Failing Deaf Children”

Argus Leader

Shelly Conlon

Overview: The project explored the systematic decisions that lawmakers, educators and state officials have made at every level, leading to a dire lack of access to resources, accommodations and Deaf teachers.

SECOND PLACE (Small media)


The News-Press/Naples Daily News

Janine Zeitlin

Overview: This five-part series follows a young woman for a year, revealing the inadequacies of both Florida’s foster care and mental health systems.

THIRD PLACE (Small media)

“Restraint, Seclusion, Deception”

Searchlight New Mexico

Ed Williams

Overview: Williams exposed that not only are isolation rooms and restraint techniques misused in Albuquerque, New Mexico schools, but the actions are often kept secret.


“Special Needs Students Often Pay Price in Efforts to Strengthen School Safety”

Education Dive

Naaz Modan

Overview: This story revealed that changes in the law have meant that children with disabilities in Florida are being involuntarily committed to mental health facilities when it’s not always necessary.