FEATURED: One in four adults in Texas have a disability, which include: Mobility – Serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs; Cognition – Serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; Independent living – Serious difficulty doing errands alone, such as visiting a doctor’s office; Hearing – Deafness or serious difficulty hearing; Vision – Blind or serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses; and Self-care – Difficulty dressing or bathing.
Graphics Courtesy CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION
2022 Barbara Jordan Media Awards winners selected for respectful, accurate portrayal of Texans with disabilities; one in four adult Texans have a disability – more than 5.4 million people, reports attorney Omar Ochoa
Gov. Greg Abbott – himself wheelchair-bound as a result of an accident when he was a young man – recently announced the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities winners of the 2022 Barbara Jordan Media Awards for media content created in 2021, reports attorney Omar Ochoa.
In existence since September 1950, the Texas Governor’s Committee on Disabilities works toward a state in which people with disabilities have the opportunity to enjoy full and equal access to lives of independence, productivity and self-determination.
The Texas Governor’s Committee on Disabilities makes recommendations to the governor and Texas Legislature on disability issues; promotes compliance with disability-related laws; promotes a network of local committees doing similar work; recognizes employers for hiring and retaining employees with disabilities, and recognizes media professionals and students for positively depicting Texans with disabilities.
The Barbara Jordan Media Award program was established in 1982 to recognize the respectful, accurate portrayal of people with disabilities by media professionals and students.
“About 200,000 individuals living in the Rio Grande Valley have disabilities, according to the March 2019 Update by the Texas Workforce Investment Council,” said Ochoa. “They represent immense value, not only to their loved ones, but to all of society. These fellow Texans are worthy of having their issues, achievements, and vision publicized and promoted by the mainstream and social media.”
The Texas Workforce Investment Council was created in 1993 by the 73rd Texas Legislature. As an advisory body to the Governor and the Legislature, the Council assists with strategic planning for and evaluation of Texas’ workforce system. The 19-member Council includes representatives from business, labor, education, community-based organizations, and the Council’s five member state agencies.
“There were excellent recommendations for mainstream and social media leaders on how to improve news coverage of Texans with disabilities including powerful advice to everyone involved in collecting, reporting, analyzing, sharing, and distributing news and information,” Ochoa said. “Beth Hall, the keynote speaker for the 2022 Barbara Jordan Media Awards, was especially enlightening in her advice.”
Among Hall’s observations and suggestions were:
• Disability stories are on every news beat (reporting on a particular subject area);
• News stories about substantive disability issues are more important that feature stories about individuals (A feature story is a type of soft news. The main sub-types are the news feature and the human-interest story);
• Disabled people have many facets and are not defined by their disability; and
• Law and polices that try to protect disabled people from discrimination and give them equal access to society make good stories because many businesses and governments continue to violate these laws.
The Barbara Jordan Media Awards are named in honor of the Houston native and U.S. congresswoman who gained recognition and a place of honor in history. She was known as a remarkable orator who broke barriers and built bridges.
She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and served for one day in 1972 as the Governor of Texas (both Gov. Preston Smith and Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes were out of state). In 1973, Jordan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and eventually began to use a cane and then a wheelchair. She passed away in 1996.
Ochoa has experience in journalism print publications.
He was the editor-in-chief of the prestigious Texas Law Review at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, becoming the first Latino to serve in that position.
In the context of law school, a law review is an entirely student-run journal that publishes articles written by law professors, judges, and other legal professionals; many law review journals also publish shorter pieces written by law students called “notes” or comments.
“It is very important for our democracy that more people better understand, and keep up with, the behind-the-scenes strategies, and growing and powerful tools used through the 21st century mass media,” said Ochoa, himself a graduate of the University of Texas as well as the UT School of Law.
Ochoa, an advocate for transparency in government, provides regular reports to the public on federal, state, and local laws that impact journalism, communications, freedom of speech issues, and transparency in government.
According to Ballotpedia, which is a nonprofit and nonpartisan online political encyclopedia that covers federal, state, and local politics, elections, and public policy in the United States:
Openness, accountability, and honesty define government transparency.
In a free society, transparency is government’s obligation to share information with citizens. It is at the heart of how citizens hold their public officials accountable.
Governments exist to serve the people. Information on how officials conduct the public business and spend taxpayers’ money must be readily available and easily understood.
This transparency allows good and just governance. Government transparency is traditionally broken into three different types: proactive disclosure, requesting public records, and campaign finance disclosure.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one if four adult Texans have a disability – more than 5.4 million people.
Also, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the major disabilities are defined as:
• Mobility – Serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs;
• Cognition – Serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions;
• Independent living – Serious difficulty doing errands alone, such as visiting a doctor’s office;
• Hearing – Deafness or serious difficulty hearing;
• Vision – Blind or serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses; and
• Self-care – Difficulty dressing or bathing.
Working in partnership with the University of Texas at Arlington College of Liberal Arts Department of Communication and Disability Studies Minor, the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities hosted the 39th Annual BJMA program highlighting and honoring this year’s winners and their outstanding work.
To view the virtual award program, visit the GCPD’s YouTube channel.
In addition to the 39th Annual Barbara Jordan Media Awards program, the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and the University of Texas at Arlington hosted virtual Barbara Jordan Media Awards “After Party” on Tuesday, July 12, 2022.
The public was cordially invited to join the virtual event for a lively discussion of issues related to disability reporting in the media.
The moderated discussion is accessible to all with open captioning and American Sign Language interpreters.
The Barbara Jordan Media Awards keynote speaker and University of Texas at Arlington faculty moderated the discussion with the invited 2022 Barbara Jordan Media Awards award winners and took questions from the audience of journalism students, media professionals, and attendees from across the state.
The Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities consists of 12 volunteer members appointed by the Governor, seven of whom must be persons with disabilities. Ex-officio members and advisory representatives represent state agencies serving people with disabilities. Committee members meet at least quarterly. Learn more about committee law in the Texas Human Resources Code Chapter 115.
Also according to the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities, two of its volunteer members are from the Rio Grande Valley:
Evelyn Cano of Pharr is the co-founder and President of the Disability Chamber of Commerce Rio Grande Valley.
The Disability Chamber of Commerce Rio Grande Valley supports local businesses via the promotion of inclusive hiring best practices by fostering collaboration and promoting economic growth for the Cross-Disability Community in the Rio Grande Valley.
Cano is the co-owner of Grande Produce LTD and Cano & Sons Trucking in San Juan.
She received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Indiana University.
Her past disability advocacy endeavors include serving as an interim Executive Director of Capable Kids Foundation, working as an independent parent advocate and gracing the stage of TEDx McAllen as a presenter about the disability advocacy movement in the Rio Grande Valley.
In 2020, Cano began her service as a board member with Disability Rights Texas.
She is a graduate of Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities Texas Partners in Policy Making course, a member of the Council of Parents, Advocates and Attorneys, and the proud parent of a 13-year old self advocate with Autism.
José J. (Joseph) Muñiz
Joseph Muñiz of Harlingen is retired.
He previously worked as a librarian and the assistant library director for the City of Harlingen, and previously served as president of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Governing Board.
He is a past member of the Texas Commission for the Blind and past vice presiding officer of the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Council.
Muñiz received a Bachelor of Arts in History from Texas A&M University.
Honorees of the 2022 Barbara Jordan Media Awards are listed below, along with links to their winning pieces where available.
HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT
Vandergrift High School
Opening paragraphs to the story:
He stood there on the field with the rest of the band at the football game against Ellison where they performed their competition piece “Juliet Letters” before the game. A big grin came across his face as the crowd clapped and cheered as they exited.
Freshman Lucas Eppele was born with cerebral palsy and diagnosed at age one. Cerebral palsy is a neurological brain development disorder that occurs before birth or during birth and can affect a person’s muscle coordination. For Eppele’s case, it affected how much he can stand still and his ability to walk.
Spectrum News 1
Opening paragraphs to the story:
FRISCO, Texas — A North Texas school district is helping its graduates with disabilities get meaningful jobs. Project SEARCH is a 10-month internship that typically turns in to a full–time gig for students who really want to contribute to society.
Project SEARCH is a nationwide program designed to help young adults with disabilities gain the skills to get and keep a job. Embassy Suites Frisco and Atrium Hospitality offers the experience for interns with both physical and/or intellectual disabilities, like Autism Spectrum Disorder. Each program cycle has 10 interns for nine months.
San Antonio and YouTube
Morgan’s Inclusion Initiative
“Celebrating a World of Inclusion”
Background to the story:
Morgan’s Inclusion Initiative is more than a nonprofit organization; it’s a movement of inclusion. It’s organization oversees five fully-inclusive, Ultra-Accessible theme park facilities where individuals of all ages and all abilities can come together for recreation and a better understanding of one another.
At its core, leaders with Morgan’s Inclusion Initiative believe that everyone deserves the right to enjoy and experience life, regardless of cognitive or physical ability. By removing barriers, they can help bring together people of all abilities to understand each other better and build friendships and a better world.
Dion McInnis Willis
The Wrangler Gazette posts New Danville’s monthly newsletter
About the newsletter:
New Danville’s newsletter, The Wrangler Gazette, caught the attention of the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities.
The committee recently named Dion McInnis as the 2022 recipient of the Barbara Jordan Media Award in the newsletter category; he developed the newsletter shortly after he started working for New Danville as their first-ever development director in March 2021.
New Danville is a rural nonprofit community for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities, or those who need similar services. Founded in 2005, it is located in Willis, Texas, where it offers independent living and day habilitation services.
Dr. John C. Bullion and Pam Humphrey
ESC Region #12,
Note: A podcast is a series of spoken word, audio episodes, all focused on a particular topic or theme, like cycling or startups. A person can subscribe to the show with an app on your phone and listen to episodes whenever you like, and are also available online.
The podcasts by Dr. Bullion and Ms. Humphrey are available online at:
Wilson County News
Opening paragraphs to the story:
Anyone who has seen a three-wheeled contraption with U.S. Marine Corps logos sailing along the roadways near Shannon Ridge has caught a glimpse of U.S. military veteran Patrick Kelly on his recumbent bike.
He has been preparing himself for a major cycling event in late August — his biggest cycling challenge yet, the 2021 Great Lakes Challenge, a route more than 400 miles long.
“I was averaging 50 miles a day,” Patrick said. “Now I am working my way up to 100 miles a day.”
He can also reach speeds of up to 55 mph going downhill.
“I don’t want to go faster than that,” he said. “Too much vibration.”
The bike’s design allows Patrick to propel himself using his legs, while not demanding much of his feet, back, arms, and neck. When not using his recumbent bike, Patrick spends most of his waking hours in a wheelchair.
Opening paragraphs to the story:
Experts offer tips for creating online or in-person celebrations that include people with hearing impairments, blindness and physical disabilities.Holiday gatherings – whether they’re online or in-person – give us all a chance to catch up with friends, share a meal or just have a good time.
The best of these celebrations include everyone, regardless of ability. Austin nonprofit Knowbility spends the year helping to create accessible web sites and other digital experiences. For the holidays, Knowbility staff turned their attention to providing tips for party planners and participants. This week, they produced a webinar with tips and even some accessible gift suggestions for people with disabilities.
For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).