Intellectual Disability and Epistemic Justice in Journalism: Reflections from A Pilot Project
This article reflects on a pilot project conducted in partnership between a disability studies scholar and several journalistic organizations to produce investigative news that is accessible to and inclusive of sources and readers with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). We situate the project against the theoretical backdrop of epistemic injustice, arguing that access to information is key for shifting public discourse that has historically disenfranchised disabled people. We then summarize the pilot project, which focused on a series of investigative reports about disability services in the southwest United States. The project engaged communities with IDD using three core methods. First, the production of the series itself intentionally centered perspectives of people with IDD in favor of family members, professional caregivers, or other experts, whose perspectives have historically dominated news coverage of disability. Next, the team produced two public events that centered disabled perspectives, including a public storytelling event and an event presenting the investigation’s findings and production in order to solicit feedback from targeted communities. Finally, we provided multiple modes of engagement with the stories themselves, including plain language and Spanish translations, and audio recordings. We close by reflecting on lessons and limitations of this project, as well as next steps in both research and practice. Ultimately, we conclude that cognitive accessibility is necessary but not sufficient, calling for the explicit inclusion of disabled people, particularly people with IDD, in newsrooms and journalistic practices.
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