Back in a jiffy!
One morning over breakfast, "Gail," a woman with Down Syndrome, asked me a question.
"Jennifer, I heard you're a writer and you're on the radio. Is that true?," she said. I told her I was.
"My dream is to be a writer," she said.
"Well my dream," I told her, "is to help other people who want to be writers."
And I thought--technology can help make this happen. Gail has a smart phone. She can tell her story. She can research and document her political opinions and her golfing trips.
I'm Jennifer Szweda Jordan and I've worked as a writer and editor in media for 20 years, with The Associated Press, NPR, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA, and The Allegheny Front.
I also work as a caregiver with Gail. She's the inspiration for Look Who's Here! It's a media outlet where people with disabilities help run the show. Gail often utters the phrase "Look Who's Here!" with great joy to each individual who walks into a room, making them feel welcomed and special. This is a key trait necessary for a media interviewer.
Gail's comment over breakfast got me thinking about the possibility of bringing people with special needs into the media world. And, honestly, many don't need much help. Some of the people I work with are already documenting their lives on facebook and snapchat, and sending me bitmojis.
People with special needs like Down Syndrome and autism are at a watershed moment. Workshops that brought together people with disabilities to sort and stuff envelopes, or do similar work, are rapidly being closed by state government. They're now expected to find competitive employment, like adults without special needs. As this population becomes more integrated into the workforce and the world, they deserve to have more of a public voice in media. Look Who's Here! will be directed in large part by people with special needs. They will help set the story agenda and help execute content, serving as editors, interviewers, writers and photographers. Look Who's Here! will buddy up people with special needs with professionals who can support them to produce great media content. Topics will include arts and entertainment, health and wellness, as well as heavier subjects important to their population, like bullying. Look Who's Here! will provide meaningful work opportunities to people with disabilities and serve a broader girl of educating society at large about problems from the perspective of its most vulnerable people.
This idea is just beginning to germinate. I've been working with people with special needs to develop interview questions and we're conducting our first interview this week. Their perspective is amazing.
With funding from Forbes, I'd work with a local college's communications department, with community inclusion and arts specialists from agencies serving people with special needs, and with these very special people to kickstart Look Who's Here! Thanks for your consideration.
Nov 30 2016Organization
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