Yoshiko Dart, Joyce Bender, Senator Tom Harkin, I King Jordan and Judy Heumann

Remembering 20 Years of Disability Matters

It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since Disability Matters with Joyce Bender first aired and we are still going strong. As the longest running show on VoiceAmerica.com, Disability Matters has played host to numerous guests from across the disability, business, political, and entertainment communities.

Disability Matters is the first international talk radio show focused solely on conversations related to the disability community. Guests discuss everything from representation in the arts, to business and political strategies moving disability inclusion and employment equity forward, to initiatives within the disability community, and various organizations supporting civil rights for people with disabilities.

Disability Matters became another first in offering a weekly news broadcast specifically calling out current issues specific to the disability community, informing people about civil rights conversations and actions they can take to ensure their rights are protected. The news broadcast is provided by Peri Jude Radecic, Chief Executive Officer of Disability Rights PA. Peri Jude is a passionate advocate and civil rights leader with experience working in LGBTQ+, disability, and women’s rights.

The show offers a vehicle in which to honor and remember the journey of our community – the heartbreak and defeats and the triumphs that have ushered in a new era for young people with disabilities, one where they have documented rights and a pathway to fight for inclusion. We have seen amazing strides in educational equity, accessibility of public places and public transportation, and more. The show has had giants in disability civil rights from former Congressman, Tony Coelho, and former Senator, Tom Harkin, to Maria Town, Temple Grandin, I. King Jordan, Ted Kennedy, Jr., Valerie Jarrett, Eve Hill, and more. It is so exciting, to have Karin Slaughter, best selling mystery author, producer and creator of the TV show, Will Trent, as a recurring guest and strong advocate and friend of the Bender Leadership Academy.

Disability Matters has become a place where you can go to still hear the voices of the leaders in the disability community that we have sadly lost over the years. Among these voices include Judy Heumann talking about writing her memoir, Being Heumann, and the documentary Crip Camp, Marca Bristo sharing reflections on President Obama signing the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, Linda Dickerson sharing her experience in writing Lavi the Lion Finds His Pride, the late Governor Dick and Ginny Thornburgh sharing their impressions of the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act as we celebrated the 20th Anniversary, and our very own Mary Brougher sharing thoughts a decade later about the 30th Anniversary of the Signing of the ADA and the 25th Anniversary of Bender Consulting Services, Inc.

The show offers a space to celebrate the future of our community through honoring our leaders of today and tomorrow. From guests in current positions of power from Maria Town with the American Association of People with Disabilities, Marcie Roth with the World Institute on Disability, and Theo Braddy with the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) to young people who are spreading a message of inclusion, like our Bender Leadership Academy alumni and Sam Miller Award Winners.

Disability Matters has also become a place where business leaders can share their commitment to hiring and disability inclusion representing brands such as Highmark Health, AHN, enGen, PPG, Proctor & Gamble, Dollar Bank, Accenture, PNC, Peraton, and more.

It was a little over a year ago when I was approached by the Heinz History Center to archive past radio shows. I am so excited to have the opportunity to have these shows become a part of our community’s history, and grateful for the opportunity that Voice America and our listening audience has given me to share these stories, strategies, and most importantly a call to action – our fight for equity has just begun and I will continue to use Disability Matters as a way to advance that mission.