Disability Justice Project

Purpose

The project is modeled after the Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization that seeks to “create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system.” Similar to mass incarceration, the institutionalization and segregation of people with disabilities around the world put entire generations at risk. This humanitarian crisis has intensified in recent years due to climate change and forced migration, which make people with disabilities even more vulnerable to long-term placement. Featuring investigative reporting and firsthand accounts, a central Web site for these stories would generate sustained attention to these issues, building the audience of people who care about this ongoing crisis.


How

A new organization doesn’t need to be created from scratch to house a program like this. The goal is to find an existing organization that already has the infrastructure in place and the people on the ground to support such an initiative. In return, the stories generated would support that organization’s mission, bringing to life the humanitarian crisis that makes your work necessary and showing that solutions are possible.

The initiative would kick off with a pilot course whose participants would begin contributing to this central news hub. This pilot would be a fellowship program in which people with disabilities would apply to a storytelling workshop that could be in person or remote. Through a non-profit called Paper Airplanes, last summer I taught an online citizen journalism class to young Syrian refugees in Turkey using Google Meet and Google Docs. Based out of Disability Rights Washington in Seattle, the Rooted in Rights news team has a similar program for people with disabilities. They send a storytelling kit (video/still camera, etc.) to their virtual fellows, paying them a stipend to attend weekly online classes and ultimately to create two three- to four-minute video stories for their site.

Overall, this initiative would be a collaboration between disabled and non-disabled/professional and emerging journalists, challenging the separations that typically divide us and starting a more universal dialogue around these issues. This dialogue would extend to mainstream media outlets as well, as the goal would be to partner with several such outlets to distribute some of the stories created. The GroundTruth Project (based out of WGBH in Boston and a frequent partner of FRONTLINE, GroundTruth has a strong climate change initiative) and Reveal (based out of the Center for Investigative Reporting in San Francisco, Reveal has investigated several private care corporations charged with abusing and neglecting people with disabilities) have expressed interest in collaborating, and Northeastern University’s School of Journalism has been approached about endorsing a curriculum.


Partners

  • Northeastern University

  • The GroundTruth Project

    Potential Funders

  • Ford Foundation’s “Just Films”

  • Apple, known for its products for people with disabilities, including video editing software

  • Open Society Foundations (Human Rights Initiative)

  • Warner Media, which has funded the Rooted in Rights program