NCDJ Contest Archive

Winning contest entries and other notable reporting on disability from 2013-2017. 



The following entries for the 2017 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability were singled out by judges for the quality of reporting on disability issues. The award winners are listed at the top, followed by other exemplary work.


Suffering in Secret
Chicago Tribune, November 21, 2016
Michael J. Berens and Patricia Callahan
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

OverviewAn investigation into the mistreatment of disabled adults in Illinois group homes. They identified more than 1,300 cases of documented harm since July 2011 in Illinois’ taxpayer-funded group homes and their day programs. The reporters uncovered at least 42 deaths linked to abuse or neglect in group homes or their day programs and uncovered state records of residents fatally choking on improperly prepared food, succumbing to untreated bed sores and languishing in pain from undiagnosed ailments.

Houston Chronicle, Sept 10, 2016
Brian M. Rosenthal
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

OverviewRosenthal’s investigation revealed how Texas officials systematically denied special education services to thousands of children. The seven-part series found that Texas placed a cap on how many children could receive special education services, saving billions of dollars but denying services to children with disabilities ranging from epilepsy and blindness to autism and attention deficit disorder.

Dorian Wants Transit Policy Towards Disabled Persons to Change
91.3 KBCS Seattle-Tacoma, November, 2016
Mona Yeh, Sonya Green, Yuko Kodama
Listen online.

Overview: The experiences of one wheelchair user trying to navigate public transportation in Seattle.


Presented in alphabetical order by title of entry

America Keeps Criminalizing Autistic Children
Pacific Standard, June 12, 2017
David M. Perry
Read online or download as a PDF HERE.

Overview: When non-white autistic students get in trouble, schools have a track record of escalating tensions and treating it as a criminal matter. Two recent cases in Orange County, Florida, help illustrate the problem.

Dating with a Disability
New York Times, Dec 8, 2016
Wendy Lu
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

Overview: Women with disabilities often begin to date much later in life, and they struggle in a dating culture that places a premium on physical appearance.

Disabled and disenfranchised: The voting rights fight you haven’t heard of
Vice News, Oct 21, 2016
Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

Overview: Many voters with disabilities are unjustly categorized as “incompetent” and therefore ineligible to vote due to their participation on guardianships.

‘I was a citizen, now I’m nothing’: disabled readers on life under austerity
The Guardian, May 30, 2017
Frances Ryan and John Domokos
Read online or download as a PDF HERE.

Overview: Recipients of disability benefits in the U.K. criticize fiscal austerity championed by Conservative policymakers including Prime Minister Theresa May.

Medicaid is Keeping People With Disabilities From Getting Married
The Mighty, June 30, 2017
Jordan Davidson
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

Overview: Dreams of marriage elude many Medicaid recipients with disabilities who fear combining incomes with a spouse would disqualify them from life-saving coverage.

Seeing in the Dark: Sex and Disability
The Bay Area Reporter, Sept 22, 2016
Belo Cipriani
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

Overview: Cipriani, who is blind, writes about the disabled community in the Bay Area, challenging stereotypes about disability ranging from sex to parenting.

Tyneisha thinks her disability shouldn’t disqualify her from motherhood
Public Source, June 15, 2017
Brittany Hailer
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

Overview: A teen mom in Pennsylvania was diagnosed with an intellectual disability, PTSD, due to trauma suffered in foster care. Despite her diagnosis she remains hopeful about regaining custody of her baby son, who state authorities placed with a foster family.



The following entries for the 2016 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability were singled out by judges for the quality of reporting on disability issues. The award winners are listed at the top, followed by other exemplary work.


A Matter of Dignity
Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 8, 2015
Chris Serres
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

OverviewIn “A Matter of Dignity,” Star Tribune reporter Chris Serres, along with reporter Glenn Howatt and photographer David Joles, reveals how hundreds of Minnesotans with developmental disabilities are segregated and neglected in a state system of sheltered workshops.

From Institution to Inclusion
WAMU, March 15, 2016
Martin Austermuhle
Listen & Read online.

OverviewThe series of radio broadcasts and digital reporting chronicled the history of a 40-year-old class action lawsuit that closed Forest Haven, the institution where residents of Washington, D.C., with intellectual and developmental disabilities were sent to live.

The DIY Scientist, the Olympian, and the Mutated Gene
ProPublica, January 15, 2016
David Epstein
Listen & Read online or download a PDF HERE.

Overview: A story of do-it-yourself genetics that helped a 39-year-old Iowa mother named Jill Viles solve her mysterious degenerative muscle disorder.


Presented in alphabetical order by title of entry

Choreography of Care
Making Contact Radio, April 8, 2016
Alice Wong
Listen online.

Overview: Alice Wong examines the role of caregivers for people with disabilities and how that influences someone’s sense of independence. 

Insensitive, Inc.
Business World, February 2016
Sonal Khetarpal
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

OverviewAn international entrythe author looks at job opportunities in India for people with disabilities.

I’m Not Broken
The Washington Post, December 4, 2015
Eric Garcia
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

OverviewA reporter in D.C. explains what it means to be a journalist with autism.

Interactive: For Disabled Patients, An Endless Cycle of Abuse
Reveal News, November 7, 2015
Julia Chan
Read online.

Overview: Reporters from Reveal News present an interactive timeline of the private neurorehabilitation system.  

Is Ebola Hiding in the Eyes of Survivors?
The Atlantic, March 30, 2016
Emily Baumgaertner
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

Overview: Some Ebola survivors in West Africa are going blind after beating the disease. The reporter reveals the struggle doctors are now facing.

Loneliness Darkens Twilight Years
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 30, 2016
Mark Johnson
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

OverviewJohnson documents the pain and loneliness of the elderly population in America living alone. 

Reporting on Disability with Sensitivity, Not Sensationalism
Nieman Reports, March 30, 2016
Genevieve Belmaker
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

Overview: The author chronicles the state of disability reporting, and how newsrooms are changing the way reporters address the topic

The Strange Case of Anna Stubblefield
The New York Times, October 25, 2015
Daniel Engber
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

Overview: An examination of the relationship between a man with severe disabilities and a woman who claimed she could communicate for him. 

The Way Forward
The Washington Post, July 18, 2015
Caitlin Gibson
Watch the video & read online or download a PDF HERE.

Overview: The story of a man with quadriplegia helping his former mentor in recovery from a catastrophic fall. 



The following entries for the 2015 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability were singled out by judges for the quality of reporting on disability issues. The award winners are listed at the top, followed by other exemplary work.


Violent and Legal: The Shocking Ways School Kids are Being Pinned Down, Isolated Against Their Will
ProPublica, June 19, 2014
Heather Vogell
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

OverviewIn an investigation by ProPublica, Heather Vogell uncovered the shocking ways children with intellectual disabilities are physically disciplined in schools across the country. 

Saving Evan
Hartford Courant, Jan. 4, 2015
Josh Kovner
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

Overview: This article tells the story of a mother and son navigating the challenges of treating autism. It chronicles how one mother handled many of the bureaucratic hurdles parents face in raising a child with autism. 

Why Some NC Sterilization Victims Won’t Get Share Of $10 Million Fund
WUNC North Carolina Public Radio, Oct. 6, 2014
Eric Mennel
Listen and read online or download as PDF HERE.

OverviewEric Mennel exposes the issues victims of a state-sponsored sterilization program in North Carolina face in seeking compensation from the state after lawmakers set up a $10 million compensation fund. 


Presented in alphabetical order by title of entry

Accessibility in Greektown
The Maneater, April 1, 2015
Alana Saad
Read online or download as a PDF HERE.

OverviewAn in-depth look at accessibility in the Greektown area at the University of Missouri, where many sororities and fraternities are housed. In this article, students with disabilities discuss basic accessibility issues they say the community is not fixing.  

Criminalizing Kids: Virginia tops nation in sending students to cops, courts
The Center for Public Integrity, September 11, 2015
Susan Ferriss
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

Overview: About 26 percent of students nationwide who are referred to law enforcement have a physical or learning disability, according to Susan Ferriss’s story for The Center for Public Integrity. Ferriss follows sixth grader Kayleb Moon-Robinson, a young boy with autism, after he was charged with disorderly conduct.

Elder Guardianship: A well-oiled machine
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Dec. 2014
Barbara Peters Smith
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

OverviewThis story delves into the tangled web of elder guardianship in Florida, where some people are said to get lost in the system. 

Left Behind
NBC4 Washington, 2015
Tisha Thompson
Watch online.

OverviewReporter Tisha Thompson talks to D.C. commuters with disabilities and advocates who worry the METRO train system is not accessible in the case of an emergency evacuation. 

Level 14: A Home for California’s Most Troubled Children Comes Undone
Joaquin Sapien
Access entire series and followup articles online or download a PDF HERE.

OverviewIn this series, ProPublica exposes the issues at a group home in California where reports of rape, fights, and drug abuse invaded a place meant to be a safety net for children, many of whom were diagnosed with a mental illness.

On education technology, college lobbyists are keeping disabled students behind
The Boston Globe, September 5, 2014
Kyle Shachmut
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

OverviewIn an op-ed piece, Kyle Shachmut argues for more accessibility in technology for student with disabilities. 

Sex, Lives and Disability
Mosaic Science, March, 3, 2015
Katherine Quarmby
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

OverviewKatherine Quarmby explores societal beliefs about those with disabilities and sex, and how people are facing that stigma head-on. 

The Brief Life and Private Death of Alexandria Hill
Mother Jones, February 26, 2015
Brian Joseph
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

Overview: Reporting for Mother Jones, Brian Joseph explores privatized foster care through the tragic story of Alexandria Hill, a 2-year-old foster child from Texas. 

Wheeling and Dealing: How Do People with Disabilities Experience Madison?”
Madison Magazine, April 2015
Maggie Ginsberg
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

OverviewMaggie Ginsberg looks at the city of Madison, Wisconsin through the eyes of someone who uses a wheelchair. 

When disability and race intersect
CNN, December 4, 2014
David Perry
Read online or download a PDF HERE.

Overview: In this story, David Perry examines a pattern of violence against people with disabilities and the underlying social issues, as in the case of Eric Garner in New York.



The following entries for the 2014 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability were singled out by judges for the quality of reporting on disability issues. The award winners are listed at the top, followed by other exemplary work.


The ‘Boys’ in the Bunkhouse
The New York Times, March 9, 2014
Dan Barry
Read online.

OverviewThrough text, photos and video, Dan Barry, Kassie Bracken and Nicole Bengiveno documented the lives of men with intellectual disabilities who for 30 years worked in an Iowa turkey processing plant for almost no pay. The story raised questions about the federal law that permitted the men to be underpaid for doing the same work as their non-disabled colleagues, explained how regulators effectively sanctioned the exploitation and detailed the squalid living conditions and mistreatment the men endured.

State of Intoxication – Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
Anchorage Daily News, Feb.-May 2014
Kyle Hopkins and Mark Lester
Read online.

Overview: This series won second place for painting an intimate portrait of children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. As common as autism, the disability is widely misunderstood and underdiagnosed in the U.S.

Denise’s Decision
Kansas City Star, 2013
Erick Adler
Read online.

OverviewIn this wrenching four part series, reporter Eric Adler chronicles the legal, medical and emotional ordeal of placing a loved one with degenerative brain disease in long-term care.

DHN – Deaf and Hearing NetworkPhoenix, Arizona
Peyton Gallovich and Melissa Yingst Huber
Read online.

OverviewArizona State University students Peyton Gallovich and Melissa Yingst Huber were recognized for their start-up venture DHN, a newscast designed to give deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers as well as their hearing family members the opportunity to view newscasts together. DHN incorporates American Sign Language, spoken English and captions into each broadcast.


Presented in alphabetical order by title of entry

A Coming Tidal Wave of Autistic Adults
America Tonight, March 4, 2013
Abigail Leonard
Read online.

OverviewFrom America Tonight, part of Al Jazeera America, this segment focuses on what systems are in place to help the nearly 500,000 children with autism transition into adulthood over the next decade.

Series: Boston Marathon Bombing Survivors
The Washington Post, Sept. 2013–June 2014
Lenny Bernstein
Read online:For some Boston Marathon bombing victims, charity checks bring frustration, Sept. 15, 2013
Brain-injured woman and others seek more money, Oct. 2, 2013
Amputees are continuing to improve, March 18 2014
Boston Marathon bombing victims to get $20 million more, June 27, 2014

OverviewThis series follows several survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings nearly a year after the terrorist attacks killed three people and injured more than 250 others. Despite payouts from One Fund Boston, many victims still face a long, hard road to recovery.

The Boy Public School Forgot”
Huffington Post, Nov. 24, 2013
Joy Resmovits
Read online.

OverviewThrough one Washington D.C.-area family’s quest to obtain quality education for their autistic son, this article exposes the routine failures of America’s public education system to give specialized care to children with autism and other intellectual disabilities.

Chronic Crisis
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2014
Meg Kissinger
Read online.

OverviewIn Wisconsin, Milwaukee County’s mental health system focuses more on emergency treatment than continual, reliable care, more so than anywhere else in the nation. Through patient stories and exclusive data reporting, this online series exposes a broken health care system.

How an Organ Transplant Changed my Life
Cincinnati Inquirer, June 16, 2014
John Faherty
Read online.

OverviewIn this long-form narrative, Cincinnati Inquirer reporter John Faherty reflects on receiving a pancreas transplant, beginning with his decision to seek a transplant to grappling with symptoms of anti-rejection medication.

Medicaid Managed Care series
Kaiser Health News in collaboration with The Washington Post, July – Dec. 2013
Jenni Bergal
Read online:
Kentucky’s rush in Medicaid Managed Care: A cautionary tale for other states, July 15, 2013
In Kansas, a fight over developmentally disabled shifting to Medicaid Managed Care, Dec. 5, 2013

OverviewThis report documents the consequences of a decision in the state of Kentucky to rapidly switch large numbers of people in Medicaid to managed care. A second report focuses on concerns in Kansas about what will happen when the state’s Medicaid managed system takes over services for thousands of developmentally disabled patients.

The New Segregation: School Choice in Arizona Takes on a Different Meaning If Your Kid Has a Disability
Phoenix New Times, May 14, 2014
Amy Silverman
Read online.

OverviewPhoenix New Times Reporter Amy Silverman recounts her experience of being “pushed out” of Arizona’s diverse charter school system while trying to find the right school for her young daughter with Down syndrome.

The War Next Door: Can a Vet with PTSD Come Home?
The Virginian-Pilot, Dec. 2013
Mike Hixenbaugh
Read online.

OverviewThis intimate look inside the life of a former solider with post-traumatic stress disorder examines the uncomfortable questions a close-knit community must grapple with when a neighbor who defended their freedom slowly loses his mind.

PA Couple Lives with Love and Disability”
Public Source, Jan. 26, 2014
Halle Stockton
Read online.

OverviewBob and Tina Norris, who both have cerebral palsy, have been married more than 22 years. Their marriage stands out not just because they have stayed together for so long but because federal and state assistance programs effectively discourage people with disabilities from marrying.

How Misunderstanding Disability Leads to Police Violence”
The Atlantic, May 6, 2014
David Perry and Lawrence Carter-Long
Read online.

OverviewThis piece explores the many instances when encounters with police have turned violent for people with disabilities over the past several years. Despite greater civil rights for Americans with disabilities, lingering misunderstandings and stereotypes and a lack of education can still trigger tragic endings.



The following entries for the 2013 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability all earned points from judges for the quality of reporting on disability issues.


Broken Shield
California Watch, February 2012
Ryan Gabrielson
Read online.

OverviewThe result of an 18-month investigation by Gabrielson for California Watch and its parent organization The Center for Investigative Reporting, “Broken Shield” exposes the routine failures of police to protect the developmentally disabled at California care institutions. The multipart series details how the Office of Protective Services, a police force charged with protecting the state’s most vulnerable citizens, botched investigations into claims of rape, torture and beatings of patients by staff members at development centers. Carrie Ching and Marina Luz produced an animated video, “In Jennifer’s Room,” to accompany the report, which also won the 2012 George Polk Award and the 2012 IRE Award and was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize.

Autism Advantage
The New York Times Magazine, Nov. 29, 2012
Gareth Cook
Read online.

OverviewPulitzer Prize winner and columnist Gareth Cook chronicles the story of the innovative Danish company Specialisterne, which employs people with autism to gain a competitive advantage in the business world. Founded by Thorkil Sonne, the father of a son with autism, Specialisterne (Danish for “Specialists) employs high-functioning autistic adults who are hired out as consultants. Sonne established the company in the belief that workers with autism could be the best person for certain roles.

Playing by Ear
Narratively, June 11, 2013
Daphnée Denis and Hoda Emam
Read online.

OverviewAn abridged excerpt from the feature documentary “Shot in the Dark,” “Playing by Ear” profiles one young man’s dedication to the Paralympic sport goalball for the visually impaired. Filmmakers Denis and Emam follow one of New York State’s top goalball players Ibrahim Shahadat, who has a rare degenerative eye disease.

Second Chapter: A Portrait of Barry Corbet
Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, July/Aug. 2013
Broughton Coburn
Read online.

OverviewOne-time Everest climber and Dartmouth alumnus Barry Corbet was paralyzed from the waist down in a helicopter crash in 1968. “Second Chapter” profiles how the thrill seeker transitioned to life in a wheelchair and became a high-profile advocate for the disabled.


Presented in alphabetical order by title of entry

Access Denied
Campus Technology, Nov. 2012 digital edition
David Raths
Read online.

OverviewWhile making university websites and course content accessible to students and employees with disabilities may be the law, many institutions are far from compliance. Campus Technology looks at three key elements of a more proactive approach to accessibility on campus. These include building accessibility into the IT procurement process, training faculty to make online courses and content more accessible and sharing best practices across the higher education system.

Boarding Homes Series
San Antonio Express-News, Aug.-Dec., 2012
Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje
Read online.

OverviewHundreds of  boarding homes provide shelter and care to mentally disabled people in San Antonio with little to no regulatory oversight. In this series of articles, social services reporter Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje enumerates the haunting experiences of boarding home residents and their families, portraying a system that provides little help to those in financial and medical need.

Disability and Discrimination at the Doctor’s Office
The New York Times, May 23, 2013
Pauline Chen, MD
Read online.

OverviewMany doctors’ offices are ill prepared to offer even routine care to patients with disabilities. Through personal experience and an overview of a recent medical study, Dr. Pauline Chen lays bare a culture of discrimination against disabled patients by exposing offices unable to accommodate special equipment or outright refusing to book appointments.

Follow my steps
Wilson Quarterly, Jan. 22, 2012
Andrew Hida
Read online.

OverviewAndrew Cunningham is a typical 13 year-old. He complains about studying and spends hours playing on Xbox Live with friends. The only difference is he was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy and gets around with the use of  a powered wheelchair. Andrew finds a brother and guide in 21-year-old Tony Reuter, born with brittle bone disease and facing a milestone of his own. Andrew Hida first began reporting the story for a class project and eventually turned it into a master’s thesis and an International Motion Art Award-winning documentary.

For Wounded Vet, Love Pierces the Fog of War
The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 4, 2012
Michael M. Phillips
Read online.

OverviewMarine Corps veteran Ian Welch was wounded in a roadside attack during his first tour in Iraq in 2003 but continued to serve two more tours before military doctors determined his post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury qualified him as disabled. Today, Welch lives in Texas with his girlfriend, Katie Brickman, who earns a small stipend as his primary caregiver under a recent federal program for badly disabled veterans.

Matadi: Un reconfort spirituel pour les sourds-muets, Sept. 20, 2012
Alphonse Nekwa
Read online.

OverviewForty formerly marginalized deaf parishioners are finding spiritual guidance and comfort in a unique church in Matadi, a coastal capital town in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The pastor of Yhwh Sabaoth uses the director of the only school for the deaf in the Bas-Congo province to translate his sermons into sign language. Article in French; read in Google Chrome for English translation.

Still, God Helps You
Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2013
Melissa Pritchard
Read online.

OverviewSnatched from a marketplace in Sudan and sold into slavery at the age of 6, William Mawwin became one of millions of people in the world to endure some form of involuntary servitude. Arizona State University English Professor Melissa Pritchard’s essay details Mawwin’s journey from a lost boy of a war-torn Sudan to a refugee in Egypt, where he lost his right hand and most of the fingers on his left in a work accident, and finally to a college student in America.

Technology For Life: How Students With Disabilities Are Attending College At Record Rates
KUNC, May 2, 2013
Jackie Fortier
Read online.

OverviewMore students with disabilities are pursuing higher education than ever before. New accessible technology along with disability assistance is helping students such as Esha Mehta and Bill Casson earn graduate degrees at institutions like the University of Colorado. But still some gender and minority gaps remain, with more women attendingcollege and more white students attending both undergraduate and graduate school than minority students.

Zach’s Journey
The Dallas Morning News, July-Dec. 2012
Mark Ramirez
Read online.

OverviewRapidly and surely, Zach Thibodeaux is going blind — the result of a degenerative disease called cone-rod dystrophy that destroys the cells of the retina. Mark Ramirez followed Zach for two years, through the third and fourth grades as the Dallas boy learned what it would mean to be blind, find new hobbies and spread awareness of his incurable disease.