The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a number of inequalities in our society related to race, gender, class, legal status and age. However, conspicuously missing from much of the media coverage on these issues are the stories of how the crisis is affecting the disabled community.
The Arizona Daily Star and ProPublica want to hear about your experiences with intellectual and developmental disabilities services. Join storytelling coaches, journalists and the Detour Company Theatre on July 8 to get involved.
The National Center on Disability and Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University today launched a campaign to encourage news coverage of people with disabilities in the run-up to the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The campaign consists of 30 story suggestions for journalists to consider that call attention to the changes brought about by passage of the ADA and the challenges that remain. The story ideas range from how disability communities are affected by COVID-19 to how changes in technology have transformed the lives of many living with disabilities.
“We’re hoping this campaign sparks more coverage of people with disabilities and disability issues,” said NCDJ Executive Director Kristin Gilger, senior associate dean at the Cronkite School. “People with disabilities make up nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population, yet their stories are often overlooked. The 30th anniversary of the ADA is the perfect time to re-balance that equation.”
The ideas were drawn from studies and published articles as well as suggestions from members of the NCDJ advisory board, which consists of journalists, scholars and members of the disability community. Cronkite graduate student Molly Duerig compiled the information and created the campaign.
The landmark civil rights legislation prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government programs and services. It defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities.”
President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990. It was amended and updated in 2008.
The NCDJ has been part of the Cronkite School since 2008. The organization provides support and guidance for journalists as they cover disabilities through the publication of a popular disability language style guide, lists of resources and experts, and training materials. It also manages a journalism contest that recognizes the best disability reporting in the country each year.
For more information, contact: Kristin Gilger, NCDJ Executive Editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Center on Disability and Journalism is now accepting entries for the 2020 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 $8,000 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 $2,500 and invited to give a public lecture for the Cronkite School in fall 2020. Second-place winners will receive $1,000, third-place winners $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, 2019, and July 31, 2020. The deadline to enter is Aug. 17, 2020. 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; former Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Leon Dash; and Daniel Burke, CNN religion editor.
The top 2019 award in the large media category went to an investigation into a New York City initiative to let those with severe mental illnesses live on their own. The project was a collaboration of ProPublica, The New York Times and PBS Frontline. The first-place winner in the small media category was 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. To read more about the 2019 award-winners, visit https://cronkite.asu.edu/news-and-events/news/propublica-and-pbs-frontline-milwaukee-journal-sentinel-and-milwaukee-pbs-win.
The Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability is administered each year by the NCDJ, which is part of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. 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,” she 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. For more information, visit the NCDJ’s website at https://ncdj.org.
Willie Levi died at the age of 73 on April 23 after contracting the novel coronavirus.
Levi, who lived with an intellectual disability, was part of a successful Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit that fought for proper pay and working conditions for people with disabilities.
Levi was sent from his hometown of Orange, Texas to Iowa, where he worked alongside other men at a turkey-processing plant for decades. According to The New York Times, the men worked “in virtual servitude” for Henry’s Turkey Service.
Although Levi never made it back to Orange while he was alive, after his passing he was set to be buried in the same historic African-American cemetery that holds the remains of his mother, according to The New York Times.
By Liz Essley Whyte, Center for Public Integrity/The Daily Beast
An analysis by the Center for Public Integrity reveals that policies in at least 25 U.S. states have provisions that could de-prioritize health care for people with disabilities if cases of COVID-19 continue to ravage hospitals’ supplies.
Disability advocates have filed formal complaints in several states for their policies on who should get ventilators if hospitals run out. These policies take into account patients’ expected lifespan; need for resources, such as home oxygen; or specific diagnoses, such as dementia. Some policies even permit hospitals to take ventilators away from patients who use them as breathing aids in everyday life, and give the ventilators to other patients.
Twenty-five states have similar provisions in their rationing policies — and many other states either don’t have policies, or aren’t releasing them.
“There is a long history of people with disabilities being devalued by the medical system. That’s why we have civil rights laws,” said disability-rights activist Ari Ne’eman. “We don’t have an exception in our country’s civil rights laws for clinical judgment. We don’t take it on trust.”
By NCDJ board member Amy Silverman, for ProPublica/Arizona Daily Star
Advocates for people with intellectual disabilities are concerned that people with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other such conditions will be denied access to lifesaving medical treatment as the COVID-19 outbreak spreads across the country.
As Silverman reports, several disability advocacy organizations filed complaints this week with the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, asking the federal government to clarify provisions of the disaster preparedness plans for the states of Washington and Alabama.
Some state plans — including Alabama’s — make clear that people with cognitive issues are a lower priority for lifesaving treatment. Alabama’s plan reads that “persons with severe mental retardation, advanced dementia or severe traumatic brain injury may be poor candidates for ventilator support.”
NCDJ board member Becky Curran Kekula appeared on this morning talk show to discuss tips for treating people with disabilities fairly and respectfully. Part of the discussion focused on the fact that since 70% of disabilities are invisible, many people are nervous to either admit they have a disability, or to speak about someone who may have a disability that isn’t immediately apparent.
Also featured are some of Becky’s favorite tips for working remotely — a particularly relevant topic in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Florida Senate just unanimously passed a House bill that ensures people with disabilities can receive organ transplants without fear of discrimination.
Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer proposed the bill, claiming that transplant facilitators don’t realize that protections against discrimination covered by The Americans with Disabilities Act also applies to them.