July 8, 2003 --
"People with disabilities have long struggled to gain their independence. They have encountered many obstacles, some obvious, others not, writes Greeley, Colorado Tribune editor Chris Cobler at the start of the paper's 7-week series "Access & Ability," which began May 18 (online at http://www.greeleytrib.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=ACCESSABILITY )
The series contains dozens of articles. A history of disability rights begins the series May 18 (9 articles and sidebars this week alone, including "The long road to independence" and "ADA protects civil rights, but more needs to be done"). May 25's installment covers education (including "Teachers follow changing role of education"). The series then looks at employment, transportation, housing and health and family issues -- offering one of the most in-depth reports on disability issues ever published for the general public in a local newspaper.
Reader polls punctuate the online edition: "How would you assess the Americans with Disabilities Act?" "How much money should be spent on meeting the needs of students with disabilities?" "Should government programs be designed to help people with disabilities receive care at home rather than in a nursing home?" "Should new homes be 'visitable?'" It might be fun for readers of this E-Letter to answer the polls as well. They're linked from the individual stories.
The reporter responsible for overseeing the project, Matt Schuman, has been with the Tribune for 17 years, as a sports writer. Schuman has muscular dystrophy. But as Tribune editor Chris Cobler told us, "we've never really used his insight into disabilities. He's worked so hard at being just another reporter that it's been a long time since we thought of him any other way.
"But I realized he could provide tremendous insight into a part of our community we had under-reported," Cobler continued. "I didn't know how he would react to being pulled off his beat, so I asked him. He immediately responded favorably and came to our first planning meeting with an outstanding outline for the series."
Schumann tells us, "I put down every issue regarding disabilities I could think of and expected that [Cobler] would want to do maybe one or two segments. Instead, he decided to do every one of the seven topics I suggested." Beth Danielson at Connections for Independent Living and Homer Page, editor of The Colorado Quarterly (http://www.disabilitylife.net/), also contributed to the series.
The Greeley Tribune, says Cobler, has long emphasized what he calls "project reporting"; another Tribune series won a public service reporting award from the Natl. Assn. of Hispanic Journalists.
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