DALLAS TWP. — Even outside the classroom, Melissa Sgroi and Dan Kimbrough don’t stray from their profession as teachers.
The Misericordia University professors made a 30-minute documentary on the barriers to voting for people with disabilities. Their work, “Vote: The Disabled Democracy” earned a 2014 Award of Merit in the international Accolade Film, Television, New Media & Videography competition. The Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts also selected the documentary for a 2104 Communicator Award from among 6,000 entries from around the world.
“The real goal was to educate people,” said Kimbrough, an assistant professor in the school’s Department of Communications.
It was the second time their work on the issue was recognized. Last year, Sgroi and Kimbrough earned an Award of Merit in Disability Issues in the competition for their 15-minute documentary, “Vote.”
The full-time faculty members who worked on their own time to do the documentaries appreciated the recognition.
“This is sort of our peer review process,” Kimbrough said.
The longer work developed from the first piece that grew out of a trip accompanying Christian Budney, a Marywood University student who is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair, as he voted in Scranton.
“We didn’t set out to do it,” said Sgroi, chair of Misercordia’s Department of Communications.
But after seeing how inaccessible the polling place was, Sgroi, a former television reporter with WYOU-TV in Scranton, suspected it was not the only instance and pursued the story.
Lack of handicapped signs and parking spaces, steps and doorways without ramps for wheelchairs were a few of the barriers Sgroi and Kimbrough found as they traveled throughout the region, including polling places in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, for their short work. It begged for a follow-up and the pair set out to do a longer piece, returning to discover officials had corrected some of the problems.
“It ended better, but it didn’t end well,” said Sgroi.
Much more remains to be done, the pair pointed out, to not only remove the barriers at polling places, but also to eliminate the discrimination the disabled face daily in all facets of everyday life nearly 25 years after the American with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990.
“Everyone was receptive to us pointing it out,” Sgroi said of the obstacles that disenfranchise voters. “It just hadn’t been pointed out.”
For both documentaries, Sgroi, 48, did the reporting and narrated. Kimbrough, 34, was the videographer and did the editing. Misericordia senior Callen Clark assisted them with the 30-minute documentary.
“Vote: The Disabled Democracy” will be shown locally on WVIA-TV and at the Society for Disability Studies conference June 11 -14 in Minneapolis, Minn.