Nov 01 2000

A Right, Not a Favor

Coverage of Disability Act misses historical shift

Despite some limitations, the 10-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is an historic call for an end to barriers facing this country’s 50 million disabled people in nearly every arena of life. But major news outlets present the ADA as mainly a regulatory issue affecting private businesses, rather than a human rights issue facing society as a whole. There are articles celebrating advances like curb cuts and wheelchair-accessible buildings. But the Act’s “costs” to business are a constant in news coverage, along with a pronounced subcurrent of concerns about purported “abuse” of the law and out-of-control litigiousness: Driving up insurance […]

May 01 1995

Are Disabled Children Ripping You Off–Or Did PrimeTime Live Tell a Big Fib?

Few targets of the “welfare reform” campaign are more vulnerable than disabled children. Yet funds for those children, in the form of the Supplemental Security Income program, were under attack on PrimeTime Live‘s Oct. 13, 1994 broadcast. “It’s a program designed to help disabled children, but parents are helping themselves,” ABC‘s Diane Sawyer announced. “Chief correspondent Chris Wallace discovers all you need is a child willing to tell a big fib.” Co-anchor Sam Donaldson echoed her: “Chief correspondent Chris Wallace discovered just how easy it is to get on the receiving end of what some are calling ‘crazy checks.’” Wallace […]

Jul 01 1993

Separate but Equal for the Disabled

Media Buy a Tale of Two Toilets

From the outset, press coverage of New York City’s efforts to provide self-cleaning toilets on the streets has had a single spin: Disabled ideologues are ruining this good project for the rest of us. “The issue most likely to doom the plan is access for the handicapped,” wrote New York Times Metro reporter Celia W. Dugger in one of the earliest articles, headlined “New York: A City of Few Toilets and Many Rules” (5/21/91). Two years later (5/3/93), New York magazine repeated the charge in almost the same terms: “How a battle over handicapped rights is keeping these spotless wonders […]

Jul 01 1991

Media Miss the Disability Rights Issue

"Courageous Cripples" Instead of Access Activists

Two thousand people gathered on the South Lawn of the White House on July 26, 1990, for the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was the largest gathering ever of journalists for a disability story, most of whose reporting ignored the fact pointed out by a lonely Associated Press dispatch a few days earlier: that the White House itself lacks the accessible restrooms mandated by the act. Instead, most of the stories had the “gee whiz” tone common to articles on not readily understood issues: “In a ceremony attended by the deaf and blind, paraplegics and a woman […]