Look Who’s Here! All-Abilities Media is a groundbreaking new project from Unabridged Press.
It provides news and features for and about the disabilities community, with significant reporting, production and planning conducted by people who have disabilities.
So far the team’s covered Medicaid, fitness training for people with special needs, an accessible fall festival, and more. All of our content has been released on our Facebook page.
The founding host of Look Who’s Here! is Erin Gannon, who lives in a group home run by Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh. Emmaus serves people with intellectual disabilities. Gannon has Down Syndrome. Emmaus is where Gannon met Unabridged Press producer and founder Jennifer Szweda Jordan, who has a parallel career as a direct support caregiver.
“I heard you’re on the radio, and you’re a writer,” Gannon said to Jordan one day. “That’s one of my dreams.”
Jordan has reported for The Associated Press, NPR, Pittsburgh’s 90.5 WESA and The Allegheny Front environmental news program, and was eager to show Gannon the ropes.
“Look Who’s Here!” is the phrase that Gannon often uses to enthusiastically greet people. And the words also represent a coming out of sorts, a new way of looking at people with disabilities–as agents of their own stories.
Gannon and Jordan attended podcast workshops at Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation, and practiced reporting skills at home and in the office with the support of Emmaus. In the summer of 2017, the first Look Who’s Here! video episode was filmed. Gannon interviewed her personal fitness trainer of 15 years, Dee Barker, of Better Body Image. Gannon was Barker’s first client who had special needs.
“Once we started working with you,” Barker told Gannon on the episode, “that opened the gates for others with special needs or disabilities just like you to come in and be mainstreamed into regular exercise.”
Look Who’s Here! has also attracted a second host/anchor, 22-year-old college student Mark Steidl. Steidl uses a DynaVox device to speak (similar to the famed physicist Stephen Hawking). That’s because Steidl has what’s known as spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Communication is in Steidl’s blood–his mother, Tina Calabro, is a longtime columnist about disabilities for the Post-Gazette and she now runs a blog about disabilities.
Steidl brings his interest and experience in arts, and a mischievous sense of humor to Look Who’s Here!
“Can it be fun?” is Steidl’s frequent question in developing program content. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
In coming weeks, interviews from Look Who’s Here! will include conversations with Marsha Blanco, a disabilities advocate for over 40 years, who’s retiring from ACHIEVA, one of the largest disabilities service providers in Pittsburgh. We’ll also find out how The Nutcracker and the musical Wicked will become more accessible in special performances for people with autism. Stay tuned!
Look Who’s Here! All-Abilities Media, and the Unabridged Press project Standup Sisters are both fiscally sponsored by New Sun Rising–a 501(C)(3) empowering leaders in the Pittsburgh area. As such, donations are eligible in most cases to be tax-deductible. Visit New Sun Rising to support Look Who’s Here! All-Abilities Media!