Ability Media was created by the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University to address a pressing need across all forms of media – the lack of representation of people with different abilities in the content and in jobs.
Ability Media is a media platform that will begin as a website and YouTube channel to meet the expressed needs and interests of the 54 million Americans with different abilities and those committed to them personally, professionally and commercially. Our goal is to develop the channel with short-format programming, original content and news and entertainment programs. It will also include a podcast and social media efforts. Ability Media also plans to launch a summer camp for high school students with different abilities who want to learn broadcasting and media skills as a way to promote these areas as future career possibilities.
Ability Media will be led by Dave Stevens, who is being hired as a Professional in Residence at the School of Communications. Born without hips and legs, Dave has had a distinguished media career. He worked at ESPN for more than 20 years as the assignment desk manager and then as coverage editor. He covered 14 Super Bowls and three World Series, and he has won 7 National Sports Emmys. Prior to ESPN, he worked at KSTP-TV in Minneapolis.
Dave also joined the Disability Dream & Do Foundation in 2016 and helps put on baseball camps for disabled children across the country. He is also a highly sought-after motivational speaker. And he has worked as the U.S. correspondent for The Disability Channel in Canada.
Ability Media serves to educate the general public about the unique skills and potential people with disabilities can offer – beginning with the media industry where less than 2% of the film and TV workforce is disabled. As a public example of employment of people with disabilities, Ability Media and the School of Communications are dedicated to elevating the voices and visibility of disabled Americans by ensuring that at least 28% of its workforce both in front of and behind the camera is comprised of people with a “different ability." Working alongside media professionals will provide those with different abilities the chance to learn and grow their leadership and employability skills in an industry that all demographic groups look to for guidance.
The School of Communications will rely upon the expertise of students, faculty and media experts in three classes and internships to produce and promote disability-themed programs, podcasts, and research on potential audiences, all centered on the common need for inclusion and access segmented by disability type then sub-categorized by age, location and ethnicity. We will continue to develop and sustain the channel, expanding beyond the School of Communications
The Strategic Plan for QU commits the university to diversity, inclusion and service to the community. Its focus on high-impact practices makes experiential learning like the SOC’s work with Ability Media foundational to a QU education. The SOC has access to the significant resources of Quinnipiac’s other seven schools and College of Arts & Sciences. Each offers its own unique discipline-informed approach to disability and inclusion. Examples include:
In addition, QU is one of the nation’s top schools for veterans, many of whom experience significant challenges as they transfer to civilian life.
Our plan builds upon strong existing and new partnerships with disability advocacy organizations, foundations, nonprofits, businesses and service organizations that address the interests and needs of the disability community to change how society thinks about this population.
Over 20.3 million families in the U.S. have a member with a disability -- this includes service men and women in the US Armed Forces who acquired a disability while in service to their country. Yet the disability community has no large single media platform, community leaders or geographic centralization. Existing mainstream TV generally lacks role models although people with different abilities are appearing in commercials and disability themes are finding their way into television and films. Actors without a disability almost always portray these parts. When polled people with disabilities said they would prefer to watch shows with characters with a disability, especially if an actor with a disability portrayed the character. Three of four non-disabled adults say they seek companies that support disability causes. All demographic groups look to the media for guidance. Ability Media can execute strong grass roots viewer campaigns upon launch.
Ability Media’s goal is to build this effort until it’s a nationwide movement that encompasses all forms of media and multiple organizations that promote people with different abilities.
Ability Media Group is affiliated with the Quinnipiac University School of Communications in Hamden, Connecticut. Because it is part of Quinnipiac University, it holds 501c3 nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service and is overseen by Dave Stevens, a longtime broadcast journalist who has worked at ESPN and The Disability Channel. The School of Communications provides an education that closely tracks what the markets require, experiential learning opportunities so students can apply that knowledge, and expansive relationships with the top companies to help students gain skills through internships and then land their first job.