NCDJ, National Center for Disability Journalism

Winners announced for National Center on Disability and Journalism 2022 awards

Monday, Nov. 7, 2022


The National Center on Disability and Journalism has announced the winners of the 2022 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability as well as the inaugural winners of the Gary Corcoran Student Prize for Excellence in Reporting on Disability.

The Schneider and Corcoran prizes are the only journalism contests devoted exclusively to the coverage of people with disabilities and disability issues.

The first-place prize in the Schneider Award Large Media category was awarded to Heidi Blake and Katie J.M. Baker of BuzzFeed News for their story: “Beyond Britney: Abuse, Exploitation, and Death Inside America’s Guardianship Industry.” Their examination highlighted dangerous flaws in the nation’s guardianship system and unseemly profits for those who take part in it.   

Sonja Sharp of the Los Angeles Times won second in the Large Media category for her work on “Disabled moms face healthcare snubs.” Sharp, who covers education and disability rights, produced her work with the support of the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s 2021 California Fellowship.

Third place in the Large Media category was awarded to Joseph Shapiro and Allison Mollenkamp of National Public Radio for their investigation “Air Travel Still a Nightmare for People with Disabilities,” which explored the anxiety, dread, humiliation and even injury experienced by people with disabilities during air travel.

First place in the Schneider Award Small Media category went to journalists Karim Merhej, Kareem Chehayeb and Christina Cavalcanti of The Public Source. Their story, “And What Would You Like Me to Do About It: How the Lebanese Government Disabled Hundreds of People – And Left Them to Pay for Its Crime,” examined the failed government response in the aftermath of the devastating ammonium nitrate explosion in Beirut that left hundreds of residents disabled.

Second in the Small Media category was awarded to Maria Delaney of Noteworthy, based in Ireland, for her “LIFT OUT” series, which examined transit challenges for users of the Dublin transit system. Third place was awarded to Jennifer Szweda Jordan of Unabridged Press and All Abilities Media for “A Valid Podcast, Season 3” that explores social inclusion for those with intellectual abilities.

New this year is the Corcoran Award for student journalists who explored disability-related issues. First place went to Michael Garcia, a graduate student at Syracuse University, for his work on “The Wilderness Pill” for Upstate Unearthed, chronicling the value of outdoor education for veterans with PTSD and other ailments.

Second place was awarded to Christopher Hippensteel, also of Syracuse University, whose piece “PA justice system fails autistic people” was published by PublicSource.

The third-place student prize went to Emily Schmidt of Arizona State University for “Fading Inside: One family’s battle with Alzheimer’s amid the pandemic,” a poignant and personal in-depth story about health struggles in her own family published by Cronkite News/Arizona PBS.

 “The National Center for Disability and Journalism is honored to once again receive an impressive number of entries from throughout world, demonstrating that journalists everywhere are paying attention to the issues facing the disabled community,” said Kristin Gilger, director of the center and Reynolds Professor of Business Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. “We are grateful to the benefactors who make these awards possible and to the journalists whose work makes a difference in so many lives.”

Judges for the Large Media Market category were Jason Strother, a multimedia journalist and founder of Lens15 Media, a news agency and consultancy focused on disability; Eric Garcia, senior Washington correspondent for The Independent; and Susannah Frame, chief investigative reporter and reporting coach at KING-TV in Seattle.

Judges for the Small Media Market category were Joseph Shapiro of NPR; Agam Shah of the Wall Street Journal; and Amanda Morris of The Washington Post.

Judges for the Corcoran student awards were Susan LoTempio, a longtime writer and editor who focuses on disability issues; Dan Hajducky, an ESPN editor; and Megan Sarnacki, a Michigan-based writer.

Winners will discuss their work during a Nov. 14 event and ceremony in the First Amendment Forum at the Cronkite School in downtown Phoenix. The event also will be live streamed.

For previous winners, visit

The Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability was established in 2013 with the support of Schneider, a retired clinical psychologist who has been blind since birth and who also supports the national Schneider Family Book Awards. The Corcoran Student Award honors the life and advocacy of Gary S. Corcoran (1951-2015) a wheelchair user from the age of 19 who volunteered untold hours to help make airlines, transit and public venues in Phoenix accessible to all.

Both reporting contests are administered by the National Center on Disability and Journalism at the Cronkite School.