2018 Contest Winners

2018 Winners

Ruderman Awards for Excellence in Reporting on Disability



“Abused and Betrayed”

National Public Radio

Joseph Shapiro, Robert Little, Meg Anderson

Read story HERE

Overview: This NPR series examines the hidden epidemic of people with intellectual disabilities being sexually assaulted. The NPR Investigations Team spent more than a year sifting through court records and interviewing victims and family members. They found that crimes against people with intellectual disabilities often go unrecognized, unprosecuted and unpunished, leaving the abuser free to abuse again. The investigation also included a first-ever analysis of federal crime data and tracked what states are doing about the issue.


SECOND PLACE          

“Pain and Profit”

Dallas Morning News

David McSwane, Andrew Chavez David

Read story HERE  

Overview: “Pain and profit” documents the way Texas treats fragile people who rely on Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor and disabled. With the help of whistleblowers and more than 160 public records requests, the series exposed the systemic denials of care and other abuses by companies paid to administer Medicaid. The Texas legislature held hearings on the findings and began considering new legislation to address the problems. 



“Stuck Kids”

ProPublica Illinois

Read story HERE  

Overview: Duaa Eldeib, Sandhya Kambhampati, and Vignesh Ramachandran

The “Stuck Kids” investigation reveals that between 2015 and 2017, 21 percent of the time children spent in psychiatric hospitals in Illinois was not medically necessary. The children remained confined to hospitals because the state failed to find appropriate placements for them. Some children were stuck in psychiatric hospitals for months, despite evidence that unnecessarily prolonged hospital stays can have detrimental effects on children in terms of both their emotional well-being and their behavior.




WNYC, New York public radio

Audrey Quinn, Aneri Pattani, Phoebe Wang

Listen HERE

Overview: “Aftereffect” is an eight-episode podcast that takes listeners inside the life of Arnaldo Rios Soto, a 26-year-old, non-speaking man with autism whose life was upended in 2016 when someone mistook a silver toy truck in his hand for a gun. Police arrived and ended up shooting and severely wounded Arnaldo’s aide, which set off a sequence of events that put Arnaldo’s life in a downward spiral.



Presented in alphabetical order by title of entry

“Alive Inside”

Mike Hixenbaugh, Houston Chronicle

December 5, 2017


Overview: Of the thousands of severely brain-injured people who are discharged to nursing homes or acute care hospitals in the U.S. each year, 40 percent are estimated to be covertly aware, or in the “minimally conscious state.” They drift between consciousness and brain death, trapped inside themselves and unable to communicate. This story takes a personal look at just one of the many people who are “alive inside,” despite appearing to be in a vegetative state.



“Schools Aren’t Preparing Students With Disabilities for Active Shooter Scenarios”

Jordan Davidson, The Mighty

March 14, 2018


Overview: There were more than 100 school shootings between Sandy Hook in 2012 and Parkland in early 2018, but there’s still no federal mandate for schools to hold active shooter drills. That means it’s up to individual schools to decide if — and how — to prepare students. As this article explores, modifications for students with disabilities are rarely included in these trainings.


2018 Winners

Katherine Schneider Medal



“Nowhere to Go”

Kaiser Health News

Christina Jewett

Read story HERE

Overview: “Nowhere to Go” shows how teenagers and young adults with autism are spending weeks or even months in hospitals, where they are sedated, restrained or confined to mesh-tented beds. These young people are taken to hospitals when families can’t get help from community social services and other programs; they end up calling 911, and those calls often result in long and agonizing hospital stays for their loved ones.



“Back of the Class”

KING Television in Seattle, Washington

Susannah Frame, Taylor Mirfendereski, Ryan Coe

Watch HERE

Overview: “Back of the Class” documents how thousands of children in the state of Washington are segregated in public schools, in violation of federal and state laws and despite research that shows children with disabilities made better progress in integrated classrooms. Children with disabilities are isolated from other students in classroom settings and even in the lunchroom, often as a way to save money, the report concludes, and Washington State has one of the worst records in the country in serving such children.



“Trapped” Better Government Association and WBEZ Chicago Public Media

Alejandra Cancino, Better Government Association

Odette Yousef, WBEZ Chicago Public Media

Read story HERE  

Overview: “Trapped” exposes unsafe elevators, shoddy record keeping and failed oversight at the Chicago Housing Authority, where many elderly tenants live, as the series put it, “in fear of their own buildings.” Hundreds of these residents, for whom stairs are not an option, end up trapped inside unsafe elevators in high-rise apartment buildings owned by the housing authority. The problems continue despite repeated citations for safety violations, flunked safety inspections and hundreds of panicked calls to 911. The series prompted the housing authority to begin a $25 million project to modernize and replace elevators.



“Flying the Unfriendly Skies”

New Mobility Magazine

Kenny Salvini

Read story HERE 

Overview: “Flying the Unfriendly Skies” relates how, in the course of a single year, the author’s  wheelchair was damaged two times by two different airlines.“ Once is a case of bad luck. Twice is the universe revealing your path. Having two wheelchairs destroyed by two different airlines in the span of a year has a way of thrusting you into a bit of reluctant advocacy with a lot of questions that need answers,” Salvini writes. He set out to find the answers and discovered a history of failed airline policies and a seeming indifference that affects thousands of others who live with disabilities.



“Out of Options”

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

April 23, 2018

Watch HERE

Overview: This video documentary follows two Texas families as they begin their journey to pursuing an alternative form of medical treatment for children with epilepsy: cannabis oil, or CBD oil. Despite the state’s passage of the Compassionate Use Act in 2015, which legalized a certain type of CBD oil for epilepsy patients who haven’t responded to federally-approved medication, families still face challenges with getting the treatment. 

ProPublica Wins Disability Reporting Award

Heather Vogell
ProPublica reporter Heather Vogell is the recipient of the 2015 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability.

A ProPublica story that uncovered the shocking ways children with intellectual disabilities are physically disciplined in schools across the country has won top honors in the 2015 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability.

The contest, the only one devoted exclusively to disability reporting, is administered by the National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. It was created in 2013 under a grant from Schneider, a retired clinical psychologist who has been blind since birth and who also supports the national Schneider Family Book Awards.

This year’s second-place award went to the Hartford Courant for a story that profiled a mother and her son, who has autism. Judges awarded third place to North Carolina Public Radio, WUNC-FM, for a multimedia piece examining the fallout of a state-sponsored eugenics program.

ProPublica reporter Heather Vogell’s first-place story, “Violent and Legal: The Shocking Ways School Kids are Being Pinned Down, Isolated Against Their Will,” profiled Carson Luke, a young boy with autism, who sustained broken bones after educators grabbed him and tried to force him into a “scream room.” The story underscored the common practice of educators secluding and physically restraining uncooperative school children, sometimes with straps, handcuffs, bungee cords or even duct tape, documenting hundreds of thousands of cases a year.

“Heather Vogell’s story met my ultimate test: I never had read before that students face dangerous restraints 267,000 times a year,” said Schneider Award judge Jerry Ceppos, dean of Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication. “No one else ever has assembled the massive dataset required to determine that number. For that alone, this was distinguished reporting. But Heather’s story didn’t rely just on data. She blended vignettes with the data so that the story read like a drama.”

“Violent and Legal” was one of more than a dozen stories produced by Vogell and Annie Waldman that examined seclusion and restraint practices in schools.

Vogell will accept the award and a $5,000 cash prize on behalf of ProPublica Nov. 30 at the Cronkite School, where she will deliver a talk on her work to students, faculty and the public. The discussion, part of the school’s “Must See Mondays” lecture series, will be held at 7 p.m. in the school’s First Amendment forum. It is free of charge and open to the public.

“We are deeply honored to receive the Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability and want to thank the judges for recognizing our work,” Vogell said. “I am glad media coverage including ours has helped push conversations about restraints out of the dark place where they have long been hidden and into the open.”

Contest judges awarded second place to Josh Kovner, a reporter at the Hartford Courant in Connecticut, for “Saving Evan: A Mother and Son Navigate the Challenges of Treating Autism.” The in-depth story profiled Carol Marcantonio’s journey to help her 11-year-old autistic son become independent when he reaches adulthood. Kovner won a $1,500 prize for the story.

“The boy, Evan, could break your heart, and the mom’s journey resonated with many parents,” Kovner said. “People were saying, ‘That’s what happened to me.’”

Radio producer Eric Mennel took third place for a North Carolina Public Radio story, “Why Some NC Sterilization Victims Won’t Get Share of $10 Million Fund.” Mennel won a $500 prize for a story profiling Debra Blackmon, an intellectually disabled woman who was sterilized at age 14 in 1972 as part of a state-sponsored eugenics program in North Carolina.

This year’s judges included Ceppos as well as Leon Dash, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and journalism professor at the University of Illinois; Jennifer LaFleur, a senior editor at the Center for Investigative Reporting; and Jennifer Longdon, a disability rights advocate and former chair of the Phoenix Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues.

In 2013, the inaugural Schneider award went to Ryan Gabrielson of California Watch, part of the Center for Investigative Reporting, for a series exposing the routine failure on the part of police to protect the developmentally disabled at California care institutions. Last year, Dan Barry of The New York Times won the award along with colleagues Kassie Bracken and Nicole Bengiveno for an in-depth story examining the lives of disabled men who worked in vile conditions for decades in an Iowa turkey plant.

According to NCDJ Director Kristin Gilger, who is the associate dean of the Cronkite School, the Schneider Awards aim to set a new standard for reporting on disability issues.

“The Schneider Awards have become an important nationally recognized honor in a remarkably short period of time,” Gilger said. “I’m convinced by shining a light on this outstanding journalism, this outstanding contest is promoting more and better coverage of the disabled and disability issues.”