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Department of Communications earns Accolade Award of Merit in Disability Issues for 'Vote' documentary
04-3-13

The Accolade Film, Television, New Media & Videography Awards has awarded a prestigious 2013 Award of Merit in Disability Issues to two Misericordia University communications professors who produced the 15-minute documentary, “Vote,’’ which chronicled how accessibility issues can disenfranchise some voters by inhibiting their entrance to polling places. The on-campus screening was covered by regional print and broadcast media in January, and later aired on SSPTV-13 in Hazleton, Pa, in March.

The documentary, undertaken by Melissa Sgroi, Ed.D., assistant professor and chair of the Misericordia University Department of Communications, and Dan Kimbrough, M.S., assistant professor, takes viewers to random polling places in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties in northeastern Pennsylvania during November’s presidential election. The independently-produced documentary chronicles the difficulties some people face in casting their ballot due to the built environment.

For the groundbreaking documentary, Dr. Sgroi acted as the narrator and reporter, while Kimbrough was the videographer and editor. Together, they visited polling sites for the Nov. 6 general election to gauge whether or not polling places met Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and did not inhibit any members of the nation’s electorate from casting their ballots in the presidential election.

The Misericordia University professors also accompanied a physically challenged college student who lost the use of his legs after a snowboarding accident, and his mother to a polling place to cast their ballots. They also talked to various election officials, a state official and others to see why these obstacles from the built environment have not been corrected at polling places.

“We hope this documentary shed light on barriers to voting for people with disabilities because this is a form of disenfranchisement that has not been widely reported or, to my knowledge, reported at all,’’ said Dr. Sgroi. “We hope this story provided education so people will notice barriers and take action to resolve them and enable all citizens to participate in the democratic process, which is a right not a privilege.’’

“This documentary was not produced for a ‘gotcha’ moment on film,’’ said Kimbrough. “Our goal in producing it was to start some dialogue among people who are in the position to eliminate these barriers and to make it easier for people with physical challenges to cast their ballots in elections and to gain entry to public buildings.’’

The Accolade recognizes film television, videography and new media professionals who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity, and those who produce standout entertainment or contribute to profound social change. Entries are judged by highly qualified professionals in the film and television industry. Information about the Accolade and a list of recent winners can be found at www.theaccolade.net.

In winning an Accolade, Misericordia University’s Department of Communications joins the ranks of other high-profile winners of this internationally-respected award. The Accolade has recognized productions from around the world, including Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Israel, Italy, Qatar, Switzerland and many more countries.

“The Accolade is not an easy award to win,’’ said Thomas Baker, Ph.D., who chaired The Accolade awards contest. “Entries are received from around the world. The Accolade helps set the standard for craft and creativity. The judges were pleased with the exceptionally high quality of entries. The goal of The Accolade is to help winners achieve the recognition they deserve.’’

For more information about the Misericordia University Department of Communications, please log in to www.misericordia.edu/com or call (570) 674-6400. Founded and Sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy in 1924, Misericordia University is Luzerne County’s first four-year college and offers 37 degree programs in three colleges in full- and part-time formats.