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Professors earn Accolade Award of Merit for 'VOTE: The Disabled Democracy'
04-28-14

The Accolade Film, Television, New Media & Videography Awards has awarded a prestigious 2014 Award of Merit to two Misericordia University communications professors who produced the 30-minute documentary, “VOTE: The Disabled Democracy,’’ which chronicled the barriers to voting that exist for people with disabilities and how accessibility issues can disenfranchise some voters.

It is the second Accolade Award for Melissa Sgroi, Ed.D., assistant professor and chair of the Misericordia University Department of Communications, and Dan Kimbrough, M.S., assistant professor of communications. In 2013, the professors received an Award of Merit in Disability Issues for the 15-minute documentary, “Vote,’’ which they produced after monitoring random polling places in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties during November 2012’s presidential election to gauge whether or not they met Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
 
“Due to the feedback we received from people about ‘Vote,’ I know our initial effort to shed light on this important and unrecognized issue resulted in some positive change,’’ said Dr. Sgroi. “Dan and I wanted to continue to educate the public, especially the people in position to enact meaningful change, about the challenges people with disabilities oftentimes face while trying to cast their votes so we revisited several of those polling places and expanded upon our initial film. We will continue to monitor these issues in our region and elsewhere.’’
 
WVIA-TV 44 will broadcast “VOTE: The Disabled Democracy’’ on Sunday, May 11 at 6 p.m. and Monday, May 12 at 7 p.m.
 
“VOTE: The Disabled Democracy’’ greatly expands upon the first documentary, “Vote.’’ The independently produced documentaries reported how the built environment, lack of proper signage, and absence of handicapped accessible parking spaces and entrances could deter or prevent people with disabilities from voting.
 
In the second part, Professors Sgroi and Kimbrough returned to the same polling sites that were deemed inaccessible to people with physical challenges during the 2012 presidential election to determine if the problems were fixed properly or did they still exist. The Misericordia University professors also investigated others polls in the Keystone State, and interviewed state officials and a noted scholar of disability and the media to discuss the complex factors that result in the widespread disenfranchisement of people with disabilities in the United States.
 
For the groundbreaking documentaries, Dr. Sgroi acted as the narrator and reporter, while Kimbrough was the videographer and editor. They 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 in part one of the series. 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 these documentaries have shed light on barriers to voting for people with disabilities because this is a form of disenfranchisement that has not been widely reported on to my knowledge or reported on at all,’’ said Dr. Sgroi. “We hope these stories have educated people so they will notice barriers and take action to resolve them and enable all citizens to participate in the democratic process.’’
 
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 its second Accolade Award, the Misericordia University 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, Canada, China, France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and many more countries.
 
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 34 degree programs on the graduate and undergraduate levels in full- and part-time formats. Misericordia University ranks in the top tier of the Best Regional Universities – North category of U.S. News and World Report’s 2014 edition of Best Colleges and was designated a 2014 Best Northeastern College by the Princeton Review.