ASU student explores how disability is talked about on Twitter

The Twitter hashtag #AblesAreWeird highlights the strange things that people do and say to people with disabilities. Image: text that says "AbledsAreWeird" appears against a solid blue background.
The Twitter hashtag #AbledsAreWeird highlights the strange things that people do and say to people with disabilities. Image: text that says “AbledsAreWeird” appears against a solid blue background.

Adam Schmuki, a linguistics graduate student at Arizona State University, studies the language and narratives people use on Twitter to refer to disability. A wheelchair user himself, Schmuki became interested in the subject earlier this year when he came across the hashtag #AbledsAreWeird. The hashtag gained popularity among Twitter’s disability community in late March as a way to normalize people with disabilities, who are often regarded by outsiders as “other.”

Click here to read more about Adam Schmuki’s research on language used to discuss disability on Twitter.

Curious to learn more about disability and language? Check out our disability language style guide, which is available in both English and Spanish.

Arizona legislator Jennifer Longdon has to roll home following late-night budget talks

After a recent legislative session ended at 2 a.m., Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, a wheelchair user and NCDJ board member, had no choice but to roll 1.5 miles home from the Capitol. Longdon’s difficulty getting home illustrates the lack of accessible public transit options in Phoenix. How can people who rely on public transportation be productive or work late, if needed, in a city that doesn’t have a 24-hour bus system?

Several colleagues and a police officer accompanied Longdon on her roll home, but, as Longdon pointed out, many people with disabilities wouldn’t be able to access the kind of help that she [as an elected state representative] could.

Click here to read more about this news story in the Arizona Republic.


Above: Rep. Jennifer Longdon thanks Phoenix police and tells her colleagues about her travails getting home on May 24, 2019. (Video: Robbie Sherwood / azcentral.com)

Washington Post food critic to add accessibility to restaurant reviews

A screenshot of "Why I will start including accessibility information in my restaurant reviews," Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema's article that was published on May 22.
“Why I will start including accessibility information in my restaurant reviews,” the article by Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema that was published on May 22. Image: a screenshot of Sietsema’s article, which depicts an illustration of a man in a wheelchair superimposed over an architectural blueprint.

Tom Sietsema, a well-known food critic for the Washington Post, has announced that he will add accessibility information to his restaurant reviews. His decision, as Sietsema explains in a post published earlier this week, was prompted by feedback he’s received from readers, who frequently contact Sietsema to ask about restaurants’ accommodations for people who use wheelchairs, or people who are blind. Sietsema said he initially had concerns about remaining under-the-radar as a restaurant critic “while measuring doorways with a tape measure.” But, upon considering that more than 70,000 Washingtonians live with a disability, Sietsema realized the importance of his obligation to serve his audience.

Click here to read Sietsema’s announcement in the Washington Post.

Columbia Journalism Review highlights NCDJ disability language style guide

a screen shot of the article's headline on CJR.org.
“How some words don’t stand the test of time,” an article recently published in the Columbia Journalism Review, highlights the NCDJ disability language style guide. Image: a screen shot of the article’s headline on CJR.org.

Thanks for the shout out, Columbia Journalism Review! A recent CJR article about disability terminology mentions our disability language style guide as a resource for journalists and writers who cover disability issues. Click here to read the CJR article online.

UPenn will offer new course on writing about mental health

Photo of Stephen Fried
Photo of Stephen Fried behind a podium, discussing his new book “Rush: Revolution, Madness, and Benjamin Rush, the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father.” (Image: Wikipedia)

Author, investigative journalist and Columbia J-school professor Stephen Fried will teach a new nonfiction writing course at University of Pennsylvania next semester. The course, which which will focus on writing about mental health and addiction, will be among the first undergraduate courses of its kind in the U.S.

Students taking the spring class, titled “Advanced Nonfiction Writing: Writing about Mental Health and Addiction,” will hear from guest lecturers and will read and discuss writings about behavioral health.

After covering mental health as a journalist for years, Fried said he understands the importance of teaching students how to report on these topics in a nuanced way. Uninformed writing about this subject matter can perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental illness and seeking psychiatric help.

Fried is the author of numerous books about the prescription drug industry and mental illness. In 2015 he co-authored Patrick Kennedy’s memoir A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction.

Read more about Fried’s new class at UPenn here.

Mishandling mental health crises to blame for spike in officer-involved shootings

police shootings in PHX
Above: A close-up photo of yellow crime scene tape. Improving the way police are trained to interact with people who have mental health issues or other disabilities is one of nine recommendations included in the report. (Photo: Shutterstock)

What accounts for the sharp increase in the number of officer-involved shootings in Phoenix last year? A lack of mental health resources, according to a report released by the National Police Foundation on Friday. The report, which was commissioned by the city of Phoenix as a response to last year’s spike in incidences of officer-involved shootings, points to a number of underlying causes for the uptick. That police officers are fielding a growing number of 911 calls involving people with mental health issues is one of them.

Phoenix police officers who were interviewed for the study said they felt unprepared to respond to these kind of situations. Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams added that law enforcement officers shouldn’t be the first (or only) line of help available to people who are experiencing a mental health crisis and that many of the calls her department receives could be rerouted to alternative resources.

Read the Cronkite News story online. You can also download a copy of the National Police Foundation’s 72-page report here.

NCDJ Accepting Entries in Annual Disability Reporting Contest

The Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability
The Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability

The National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication is now accepting entries for the 2019 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability, the only journalism contest devoted exclusively to disability coverage.

Winners will receive a total of $17,000 in cash awards for first-, second- and third-place finishes in large media and small media categories. First-place winners in each category will be awarded $5,000 and are invited to the Cronkite School to give a public lecture in fall 2019. Second-place winners will receive $2,000; third-place winners receive $1,000; and honorable mention winners are awarded $500.

Journalists working in digital, print and broadcast media are eligible to enter. Entries are accepted from outside the U.S., although the work submitted must be in English. There is no entry fee.

Entries must have been published or aired between July 1, 2018, and July 31, 2019. The deadline to enter is Aug. 5, 2019. For more information and to enter, go to https://ncdj.org/contest/

Entries are judged by professional journalists and experts on disability issues. Past judges have included “PBS NewsHour” anchor Judy Woodruff; Tony Coelho, former six-term U.S. congressman from California and the primary sponsor of the Americans With Disabilities Act; and former Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Leon Dash.

The 2018 winners included journalists from National Public Radio; Dallas Morning News; ProPublica; WNYC/New York Public Radio; Kaiser Health News; KING Television, Seattle; WBEZ Chicago Public Media; and New Mobility Magazine.

The Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability is administered each year by the NCDJ. It is supported by a gift from Katherine Schneider, a retired clinical psychologist who also supports the Schneider Family Book Award, honoring 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.

Schneider, who has been blind since birth, said she 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,” Schneider said.

The NCDJ, which has been housed at the Cronkite School since 2008, offers resources and materials for journalists covering disability issues and topics, including a widely used disability language stylebook in both English and Spanish.

 

 

#LetUsPlayUs: Blind Americans protest new CW television series “In the Dark”

Above: Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, is interviewed during the organization’s protest on April 2nd in midtown Manhattan. (Video: SCOOTERCASTER / YouTube)


Members of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) gathered in midtown Manhattan on April 2nd to protest “In The Dark,” a new television series on the CW network. The purpose of the protest #LetUsPlayUs was to highlight the lack of authentic representation of blind people in the entertainment industry; “In the Dark” features a lead actor who isn’t blind in real life, but who plays the role of a blind person on the show.

In the weeks leading up to the protest, the National Federation of the Blind issued a statement condemning the show and calling for its cancellation. The organization also wrote to the show’s producers and to CW/CBS executives requesting an urgent meeting. The NFB received a response from the show’s executives stating that they are interested in meeting with the NFB after the first season has aired.

You can also listen to NFB President Mark Riccobono recap the protest here.

#LetUsPlayUs on Twitter

Athletes feel bullied by classification process to compete in Paralympics

A collage of para athletes competing in swimming, track, basketball, and archery events. Image: paralympic.org
A collage of para athletes competing in different swimming, track, basketball, and archery events. Image: paralympic.org

Before competing in the Paralympics, para athletes must undergo a controversial disability classification process to determine which sport classes (categories based on disability type) they are eligible for. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) governs this classification process and each country that competes at the Paralympic Games is required to abide by its code.

The classification process is intense, in part because of widespread accusations that some athletes fake or exaggerate their disabilities during classification to improve their chances of competition success. The process can also be degrading, according to many Paralympic athletes.

Read more about the controversy surrounding the Paralympics classification process.

How to write better stories on students with disabilities

Image: indianadisabilityawareness.org A poster for the "I'm Not Your Inspiration" awareness campaign by the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities. A portrait-style photo of a boy is juxtaposed against an orange backsplash with text that reads: I'm Not Your Inspiration (I'm Your Classmate).
Image: indianadisabilityawareness.org

Posters for the “I’m Not Your Inspiration” awareness campaign by the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities. In one, a portrait-style photo of a boy is juxtaposed against an orange backsplash with text that reads: I’m Not Your Inspiration (I’m Your Classmate).

As journalist and NCDJ disability language style guide author Amy Silverman writes, “Disability journalism is a hot beat right now. But just because you’re covering disability doesn’t mean you’re doing it right.”

In a column for Phi Delta Kappan, a professional journal for teachers, Silverman discusses the challenges of reporting in schools and the ways in which journalists still far short when it comes to telling relevant and nuanced stories about people with disabilities. Read more of Amy Silverman’s column online.

Learn about the concept of “inspiration porn” in this video of journalist and comedian Stella Young’s talk at TEDxSydney: