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State of Access: This Week’s Version

When I’m giving disability issues talks, I’m often asked “Because of the ADA and other laws, are things getting better?” My answer is some version of “yes and no”.  Here’s this week’s version:

  1. Unsafe situation on nearby corner of busy street
    The mile long reconstruction of an arterial road near my house just finished.  Drivers are breathing a sigh of relief about not having to drive a couple extra miles to get around the construction.  I walked part of the reconstructed sidewalks with a friend who used to teach blind kids and she pointed out that on one corner the truncated domes (bumps) were mis-applied. They’ll launch blind people kiddy-cornered from the northwest corner of the intersection to the southeast corner. I immediately notified a staff member in the city’s engineering department and she replied that she’d turned it over to the project manager and would get back to me with an update when available.  Being concerned that soon the snow will fly and it won’t be able to be fixed until next spring or summer, I notified the city manager. He has not gotten back to me yet.
  2. Unreadable obituaries:
    When you reach the age I have, you start checking the obituaries as regularly as you have that first morning cup of coffee.  Recently the local paper switched their provider of obituaries and they’re no longer accessible to my screen reader.  When I contacted the local paper’s representative, they gave me the email of the help desk of the new provider. I emailed them and offered to work with them to fix the problem. No word back yet.  My work around is to ask a sighted friend who reads the paper to let me know if anyone she knows is listed in the obits.  Not the same, but better than nothing.
  3. Inaccessible library app:
    The public library is touting an app, Libby where one can download audio and e-books on your iPhone. I downloaded it and opened it to a “secret” message to Voiceover users (meaning it wasn’t printed on the screen for sighted people to see, but just audio) that the app wasn’t accessible to us and we should use Overdrive app instead. After several emails and phone calls to the public library, they raised the complaint with the library system who will raise it with the vendor. On the company’s website I read that they’re “working hard” to make Libby accessible, no timeline given. I put a comment on the CEO’s blog since I couldn’t find his email, but have no way of knowing if it was read since I haven’t heard back. There’s plenty of responsibility to be spread around on this one: e.g. why did the company knowingly market an inaccessible app? Why did the library system buy an inaccessible product?
  4. Disability emoji’s launched in version 13.2 for iPhones and iPads:
    For over a year, we’ve been hearing that some disability emoji were coming soon to iPhones and iPads. They have arrived, including persons with “cochlear implants” “probing canes”, “guide dog” and “service dog”. I’ve never heard a long cane, also called a white cane, called a “probing cane”. Others in the disability community point out that many disabilities including cognitive disabilities don’t get an emoji. I also notice some of the other new emoji give the person a high status profession “nonbinary judge” or such, but we just get a disability. Am I happy? A little! (Insert emoji of slightly smiling face in your mind)

I was reading Kushner’s excellent Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned about Life. He has a theology of “not yet” that I really like. Are things all better on the accessibility front? Not yet, but that may happen someday if we all keep plugging away on it.

Katherine Schneider, Ph.D.
Senior Psychologist, Emerita
Counseling Service
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Author of Occupying Aging: Delights, Disabilities and Daily Life, To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities and a children’s book Your Treasure Hunt: Disabilities and Finding Your Gold
Blog: http://kathiecomments.wordpress.com

ProPublica and PBS Frontline, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Milwaukee PBS win top prizes in 2019 Schneider Disability Reporting Competition

The National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication announced the winners of the 2019 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability, the only journalism contest devoted exclusively to the coverage of people with disabilities and disability issues.

Journalists working in digital, print and broadcast media from around the world competed for awards and cash prizes totaling $17,000.

First place in the large media market category was awarded to Right to Fail, Living Apart, Coming Undone, an in-depth investigation by ProPublica and PBS Frontline in collaboration with The New York Times. The series, written by Joaquin Sapien of ProPublica and Tom Jennings of PBS Frontline, 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.

“’Living Apart, Coming Undone’ was an extraordinarily well-reported story about good intentions — moving mentally ill New Yorkers out of institutions into their own apartments — gone horribly wrong. The story and the photos made the human pain obvious,” said contest judge Jerry Ceppos, former newspaper executive and dean of the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Sapien and Jennings will receive $5,000 and an invitation to the Cronkite School to give a public lecture on Dec. 2, 2019.

Second place in the large media market category was awarded to Trapped: Abuse and neglect in private care entered by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. WNYC-FM reporter and Aftereffect host Audrey Quinn’s reporting 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 award-winning 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. Quinn will receive $2,000.

Third place in the large media market category was awarded to Unfit by Radiolab. Produced by Matt Kielty, Pat Walters and Lulu Miller, 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 for a person with intellectual disabilities to be sterilized against their will if a court decides it is in their “best interest.” The podcast episode reached millions of listeners and hit the top 10 on the iTunes charts. Creators of “Unfit” will receive $1,000.

Honorable mention in the large media market category was awarded to The parents said it was a special needs bed. The state said it was a cage by Mary Jo Pitzl of The Arizona Republic. 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 the Wadsacks’ 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. Pitzl will receive $500.

In addition to Ceppos, the judges for the large media market category were Tony Coelho, a former six-term U.S. congressman from California and the primary sponsor of the Americans With Disabilities Act; Daniel Burke, CNN religion editor; and Amy Silverman, a Phoenix-based writer, editor and teacher.

First place in the small media market category was awarded to You’re Not Alone, a collaborative documentary between the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Milwaukee PBS. The program followed the lives of four young people from Wisconsin as they navigated mental health challenges. 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. The final product included a suicide prevention toolkit at jsonline.com/yourenotalone. The film premiered at a Milwaukee high school where 11 local mental health organizations staffed resource tables and offered on-site counseling for an audience of more than 200.

“You’re Not Alone” was beautifully produced and stunning visually. Having the young people speak their truth in their own words was powerful. There is no doubt in my mind that the result of this work is living up to its name, providing strength to those with disabilities (and) reassuring them that you are not alone,” said contest judge Susannah Frame, chief investigative reporter for KING 5 Television in Seattle.  Liannane will receive $5,000 and is invited to the Cronkite School to give a public lecture on Dec. 2, 2019.

Second place in the small media market category was awarded to The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, for We dined with wheelchair users at 4 of Charleston’s top lunch spots. Here’s what they experienced. 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. The restaurant owners were swift to respond, pledging to address the issues. Raskin will receive $2,000.

Third place in the small media market category was awarded to Criminalizing disability by Ed Williams, a reporter for Searchlight New Mexico. 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. Williams will receive $1,000.

Honorable mention in the small media market category was awarded to Fighting for Personal Attendants at the Texas State Capitol by investigative reporter Edgar Walters of The Texas Tribune. 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 explored Angel’s quest for additional funding for her personal attendant who allows her to live independently and has become a close friend. Walters will receive $500.

In addition to Frame, the judges for the small media market awards were Jennifer LaFleur, data editor for American University Investigative Reporting Workshop; Susan LoTempio, NCDJ Advisory Board member and former newspaper editor; and Leon Dash, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who is a professor of journalism at the University of Illinois.

The Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability was established in 2013 with the support of Schneider, a retired clinical psychologist who has been blind since birth and who also supports the national Schneider Family Book Awards. The reporting contest is administered by the National Center on Disability and Journalism at the Cronkite School.

NCDJ Releases Disability Language Style Guide in Spanish

NCDJ NCDJ, National Center on Disability and Journalism, Disability Language Style Guide, Spanish
NCDJ Releases Disability Language Style Guide in Spanish

The National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University has released its popular disability language style guide in Spanish.

The NCDJ, which is headquartered at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, provides guidance and support for journalists and communications professionals as they write about and report on disability issues and people with disabilities.

The style guide was recently updated to contain nearly 200 words and terms commonly used when referring to people with disabilities.

“The guide is used around the world but until now has been available primarily in English,” said NCDJ Executive Director Kristin Gilger, the senior associate dean at the Cronkite School. “The new Spanish-language version will make it possible for us to reach far more people with advice on disability-related language choices.”

She said the guide is not prescriptive. Instead, recommendations are intended to help communications professionals avoid offensive language while also being clear and accurate.

The Spanish translation of the guide was made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation, which provides support for NCDJ programs and services.

In addition to the style guide, the center administers an annual contest recognizing the best reporting on disability in the country and provides training and resources for journalists, public relations professionals, educators and others concerned about how people with disability are portrayed.

Both the English and Spanish versions of the disability language style guide are available in downloadable format at https://ncdj.org/style-guide/.

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.

Blind swim coach relies on his hearing to train swimmers

More Americans Have Disabilities, Survey Finds

One in four Americans is disabled, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey released Thursday “At some point in their lives, most people will either have a disability or know someone who has a one,” Coleen Boyle, director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said in a written statement. Read Binghui Huang’s story here.

A Japanese man in a wheelchair in the Asakusa area of Tokyo, Japan. ** OUTS - ELSENT, FPG, CM - OUTS * NM, PH, VA if sourced by CT, LA or MoD ** (Rich Legg / Getty Images)
A Japanese man in a wheelchair in the Asakusa area of Tokyo, Japan. ** OUTS – ELSENT, FPG, CM – OUTS * NM, PH, VA if sourced by CT, LA or MoD ** (Rich Legg / Getty Images)

Doctors With Disabilities Push For Culture Change In Medicine

Lisa Iezzoni graduated from medical school but didn’t end up becoming a practicing doctor. This was before the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990, and she says she just didn’t have the support. Read her story in Doctors With Disabilities Push For Culture Change In Medicine, produced in collaboration with WHYY’s The Pulse, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

Lisa Iezzoni is professor of medicine at Harvard. She has multiple sclerosis and researches disparities in health care for people with disabilities.
Lisa Iezzoni is professor of medicine at Harvard. She has multiple sclerosis and researches disparities in health care for people with disabilities. Elana Gordon/WHYY

Op-ed piece addresses New York Post cover story

A New York Post cover story advances the harmful notion that if someone can walk, they must not have a disability writes Peter Catapano in his op-ed piece “A Front-Page Insult to People With Disabilities”.
Mr. Catapano is the editor of the opinion series Disability at the New York Times.

Image of New York Post cover story "Walk of Shame."
Image of New York Post cover story “Walk of Shame”, by Jeenah Moon for The New York Times”

Straw ban concerns disability community

Starbucks’ announcement that it will eliminate plastic straws from its stores worldwide by 2020 concerns some in the disabled community. The company says it hopes the ban will to reduce environmental pollution. However, numerous disability advocates spoke out saying the ban could be discriminating.
Why People With Disabilities Want Bans On Plastic Straws To Be More Flexible

Tight cluster of brightly colored straws
As cities and companies — including Starbucks — move to oust straws in a bid to reduce pollution, people with disabilities say they’re losing access to a necessary, lifesaving tool.