CMI 2020 Annual Report


Learn more about the work of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University during 2019-2020. If you want to be the first to know what's happening at the CMI, sign up for our monthly email newsletters:

All-Abilities Media

‘Unpacking ableism’ with

college students

By Jennifer Szweda Jordan

All-Abilities Media

Dis/Ability Symposium: art,

research, autobiography

By Jennifer Szweda Jordan

Photo by Jennifer Szweda Jordan

Emily Harnett of Point Park’s Conservatory Program was initially afraid she couldn’t perform on stage when she was diagnosed with

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. In the Center for Media Innovation, she spoke dramatically about her years of misdiagnoses and her

determination to be an actor.

Photo by Joseph Smith

Brian Rutherford (right), a Point Park graduate who worked at Walt Disney World, speaks about losing his eyesight and his

work with theater companies.

In one of the latest videos published

from the All-Abilities Media Project, Point

Park University acting student Emily

Harnett shares a dramatic reading of her

life story.

“I’m a kid,” she says. “Kids are running,

playing and laughing, carefree. I’m running

and playing and laughing, but my time is

cut short.”

The project’s journalists, based at the CMI,

are working hard to create content, and

continually adding more accessibility

features – triple-checking and

painstakingly rewriting captions, for

8 example, so those with hearing impair-

conversation about their lives instead of

and representation in film and theater. Kennywood, where she works.

being a black man on the autism spectrum. 9

ments don’t have to rely on the often

inaccurate auto-generated captions.

Project manager Jennifer Szweda Jordan

recently spoke to Duquesne University

psychology students enrolled in an

“Unpacking Ableism” course. She led a

discussion about media portrayals of

people with disabilities, which raised

questions such as: Are adults with

disabilities infantilized in YouTube videos

or news reports? How can we give

greater agency to people with disabilities

to represent themselves and the issues

important to them?

All-Abilities Media focuses on ensuring that

this vulnerable group leads the public

social service agencies and family

members, who were their primary public

voice in the past.

All-Abilities Media parallels the national

trend of people with disabilities advocating

for themselves. Last fall, Szweda Jordan was

invited to speak to the board of the National

Center on Disability and Journalism during

its conference at the Walter Cronkite School

of Journalism at Arizona State University in


On March 3, the All-Abilities Media team was

a part of the free Disability & Mental Health

Summit organized by state Rep. Dan Miller

at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

More than 230 regional disability service

organizations were represented.

CMI graduate assistant Stacey

Federoff led the Dis/Ability Show & Tell: A

Community Symposium on Oct. 22 that

allowed community members, Point Park

students, staff and alumni to share creative

and personal stories around the issues of

disability, accessibility and inclusivity.

Point Park alumnus and former Walt Disney

World Entertainment Costuming Manager

Brian Rutherford talked with WESA’s Bill

O’Driscoll about his experiences at the

company prior to losing his sight to a series

of strokes, as well as his current work

aiding local theater companies with audio

description. Other topics featured were:

learning disabilities, Certified Autism

Centers, narcolepsy, mobility disabilities

Photo by Joseph Smith

Jade Steele, education student at Point

Park, spoke about Certified Autism Centers

at locations including the amusement park

Photo provided by Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith photographs events for the

All-Abilities Media Project. In a story at, he shares his story about