As I continue to launch ‘Adapting With Alex’, I look forward to bringing you the transcript of each conversation that has taken place and that will be my blogpost content! We first kick this off with Angela Mellady, publish for Able Newspaper, a prominent paper which helps the disabled community adapt!
Interview Aired 11/2/20 on ‘Adapting With Alex Garrett’
Alex Garrett (00:00):
We’re going to talk about the adaptations to the election process for those with disabilities. And I couldn’t think of a better paper, a better organization to talk to then Able News. That’s right. If you’ve ever been to the games for the physically challenged, or have you ever been to Henry Viscardi school? You see Able News right there and I’ve got the publisher, Angela Mellady on. It’s so nice to have you on. And finally, I get involved with Able. Thanks for joining me today.
Angela Mellady (01:29):
Thank you, Alex.
New Speaker (01:31):
You guys are iconic. You’re seen everywhere, but you are focused on this election. So let me first ask about the adaptations that you guys have noticed at the election booth has been easy for people with disabilities to vote this year. Have you had any problems, have you heard of any problems or help people? Even
Angela Mellady (01:51):
We, we usually hear about it after the fact, but I know that there were many adaptations. I’ve been on an adapt voting Zoom every week where they have been preparing and they were able to get online applications and mail-in ballots and voting online. So this, there were plenty of ways to do it. I’m just not sure how, if there were any glitches and we won’t know that until after the election, after tomorrow, probably
Alex Garrett (02:26):
So it’s easier to maneuver around the city and the voting booth, but I will say New York City has this fast pass for people with disabilities. We didn’t know how they knew, but they gave us a fast pass. And I’m sure you’ll hear some of that too. In New York city, that they were able to do that for people with disabilities, they gave you a fast, they did, it was kind of like a ticket. And I would able to go to the front of the line. I’m not sure how many others got it, but I know that I had been able to use that. So I’m great.
Angela Mellady (03:00):
You know, my son, my son lives in Brooklyn and he had some kind of card also. He’s not disabled, but he waited online actually for two hours. But, but I didn’t know what that card was. Cause I’m on long Island. I’ve never seen that before. We don’t need any ID here to vote. So I wonder if everyone got a pass and, and you’re the ones for people with disabilities we’re special.
Alex Garrett (03:24):
Now, Angela, I gotta ask it made the front page of able on the newspaper. Why is this election front page material for the disabled community?
Angela Mellady (03:38):
Well, the presidential election is always an issue. It’s always on our front cover in this month. We actually featured it in October and November. We compare the two presidential candidates and their policies and the November one is just kind of reminding people to vote and to look back at the November issue to see what, what the policies are.
Alex Garrett (04:10):
And what did you guys find?
Angela Mellady (04:13):
Well, this healthcare is important. Healthcare is very important to people with disabilities. I think normally Democrats are a little bit more sensitive or a lot more sensitive to people with disabilities. All of the issues that people with disabilities have, the discrimination factor and the affordable care act of course is important. Economic security; paid leave for caregivers; disability programs, SSD and keeping people in their homes rather than putting them in nursing homes. It’s always a big issue trying to keep people out of facilities.
Alex Garrett (05:56):
It’s a little nerving when you find out that your caregivers are on the COVID floor and then come to you and you pray.
Angela Mellady (06:23):
Yeah, that would be pretty unnerving, even, even just people going from one home to another is a little scary people with disabilities, many are so vulnerable and in poor health to begin with. Having attendants go from one place to another or coming back and forth on the subways or buses, public transportation really has to be very, very careful.
Alex Garrett (07:05):
We are talking with Angela Mellady, she’s the publisher of Able News. Now you guys have always been sort of seen as an advocate for the community. What have you been advocating for, especially during this time election aside during COVID alone?
Angela Mellady (07:21):
Well, we like to think of ourselves as, uh, an independent news organization rather than advocates, but we actually started the paper in 1991. As time went on, I think, I think we’ve turned into more advocacy settings than just plain news. We try to be even handed. We try to supply the news without bias, but much news about people with disabilities is biased towards helping people with disabilities.
Alex Garrett (08:00):
How do you hope to shape the message for people who aren’t in the community, how do you try and get it Able News to the able-bodied community?
Angela Mellady (08:22):
We have two editions, a New York City edition and a Long Island edition. And we, we also, we don’t know, we, we put the paper in all the libraries. So it used to be in New York when the New York edition is now only online, but when it was a print edition, it would be in all libraries. So that’s how we get to the able-bodied community. They pick it up in library sometimes, you know, when you go to a diner or something or some or grocery store, sometimes there are papers out there. So we try to distribute to able-bodied people as much as possible because people just don’t understand that unless it’s happening to them, it is getting into a restaurant. One step is like a mountain to a person in a wheelchair. Most people who are able-bodied don’t understand. So we try, we try to get the word out that way.
Alex Garrett (09:39):
Angela, I have been trying to focus this podcast back to adapting and really making sure people know there are resources for adaptation and you guys deal with that. Like you partner with people who have adaptive leanings and can help people adapt. Do you want to weigh in on that? Like, cause I see all the ads and all the people that you have in there. How do you guys help the community adapt?
Angela Mellady (10:10):
How do we help the community adapt? I guess just, just getting the word out and, and telling people how to adapt. I mean we have ads like TracFone, which is available to people with disabilities ramps. We even have dating ads, um, and all kinds of different, different, um, kinds of, uh, adaptations. Actually, most of our ads in the paper and in our stories are geared toward people, making their homes or their businesses more accessible.
Alex Garrett (11:01):
What goes into the process of choosing what story is fit to print in Able News?
Angela Mellady (11:13):
We get a tremendous amount of, emails and we searched through that and, um, we have people pitching stories to us. Whatever’s relevant to the community is what we use. We try not to do any stories that are general stories. Like if, if there’s not an actual disability content or link, we don’t use the story.
New Speaker (11:45):
Focused on that mission to narrow in on that helps you guys expand in the community.
Angela Mellady (12:07):
I would, I would think. Yeah. Yeah.
Alex Garrett (12:10):
How many people would you say look to Able News for their stories, for things that maybe even can uplift them during this time?
Angela Mellady (12:20):
We put out 8,000 print copies every month and we have about, uh, 5,000, I think readers online.
Alex Garrett (12:33):
That’s a, that’s a great number. And again, it’s sort of like a hidden gem because to me, I find that the, the adaptation world, the good news from the disabled community is kind of like not on the mainstream. And that’s, that’s why I want to bring you guys into the light and tell people, yes, there is an outlet. And also for people who let’s say are afraid to adapt, would you say there’s that too? Like, we want to inspire people to adapt. And, and because there is a number of people that don’t know how to adapt a certain situation. Wouldn’t you agree?
Angela Mellady (13:03):
Are you talking about people with disabilities that are afraid to adapt or organizations or businesses?
Alex Garrett (13:11):
Well, I think all three, but certainly people who may have had an amputation or who became disabled or families. I mean, it’s not an easy thing to adapt. So how do you guys help them ease into that process?
Angela Mellady (13:24):
Well, we were through the different stories we run. I know that people who, who have a new disability are always, always very frightened. They don’t want to accept it. Um, and it takes time. It’s like a mourning process even, uh, sometimes. And, um, they, their families have to help them and work with them and, and try to understand what’s happening. It’s, it’s a lot to learn and a lot to, to go through to figure out everything that needs to be done and what everything that’s available to them.
Alex Garrett (14:02):
And again, the powerful stories in addition to the people that you work with to help the powerful stories, I think give a uplifting feeling as well. Wouldn’t you say?
Angela Mellady (14:11):
I would hope I would hope that’s really, our goal is to help people and to have them, uh, uplifted and, and just to really just get good information.
Alex Garrett (14:24):
Well, any favorite stories that you’ve printed election aside, any favorite stories that you’ve printed over the last couple of months that, that people should really keep their eyes on for some uplift during this time?
Angela Mellady (14:37):
Well, I personally love our tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the things that she’s done for disability community, the decisions, that she’s made as far the Olmstead decision she did, she did, uh, she wrote the decision instead and, um, she was an advocate. Um, a lot of our stories are about legislation and what’s happening for people with disabilities. We have back to school tips. And since COVID hit, we’ve been doing a lot. I mean, at the beginning, we, had almost halted issues about COVID and how to make your way through and how to get what you need. Um, there’s one, one story we did in the October issue where families who, um, were concerned about losingtheir home care, uh, and possibly having their loved ones put back into institutions,. We did a story of an automobile rally that I think started in Montauk and went all the way up to Albany. They referenced Willowbrook as, as a horrible, horrible situation that they don’t want to go back to.
Alex Garrett (16:12):
Sure. Well, let’s talk about the drive by, because I know that’s uplifted the community a lot because, you know, some people were, a lot of people with disabilities were afraid to go and because of the immune system and everything, but the drive-by’s really uplifted people. And I’m sure you wrote about that enable
Angela Mellady (16:35):
We did zooms more than drive-bys actually, we did do a drive by for Angela’s house. Um, I don’t know if you know, Angela’s house, uh, I know organizations, Suffolk County where, um, their children who are so medically fragile that they can’t stay in their own homes. Bob Policastro, uh, started the organization and they buy homes and they retrofit them so that these children can stay in these homes with aides and help. They did a zoom thanking their caretakers, and that was on our front page one month.
Alex Garrett (17:23):
That’s so, that’s so cool.
Angela Mellady (17:26):
Yeah, then also Angela’s house. They do drive by birthdays. Um, they put out big signs all over the front lawn, if it’s one of the children’s birthdays and the families come and, um, I’d spend time with them,
Alex Garrett (17:41):
You know, Viscardi, my, my Alma mater my home, my roots, they actually tried to get the Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or however it was mixed schedule and, and have the kids back to school a little bit. I mean, that was quite an effort.
Angela Mellady (18:08):
I haven’t seen that Viscardi did that. Were they successful?
Alex Garrett (18:13):
They had a couple of cases, but it sounds like they had it under control.
Angela Mellady (18:22):
I’m very concerned about, about the schools. I know children with disabilities need to that, that one-on-one, they need the in-person attention. It’s just so hard with, with the zoom, uh, trying to, trying to teach them that way.
Alex Garrett (18:42):
I, yeah, I can only imagine it’s, it’s gotta be frustrating for the parents as well, but you said you did a lot of COVID coverage. Did you find a lot of people coming to Able for, uh, for something during this to, to hold onto to say, yes, we can get through this.
Angela Mellady (19:03):
You know, we don’t get a lot of feedback like that. I mean, we send the papers out and we, we, we get compliments very often, but we don’t usually get specific, um, back that kind of specific, uh, Oh, this helped me, or that helped me, but we did, we did. I’m sure. I’m sure. I mean, we have, we have, every month we have a letter from the commissioner of the mayor’s office for people with disabilities, (Victor Calise), talking about what what’s new. It started. He started to, yeah. He started writing when COVID started and he’s been doing it every month on our page in our New York edition. And he gives a lot of information.
Alex Garrett (19:47):
If people do want a story to give to Able, how can they do that? How can they be part of this, uh, mission and journey you guys are on and maybe, you know, get their word out through you guys, like, Hey, things are going to be okay.
Angela Mellady (20:06):
Whatever they have of interest to people with disabilities, they certainly can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s where our editorial comes in.
Alex Garrett (20:19):
And do you find that I’m sure you find a lot, especially during this time people writing to you?
Angela Mellady (20:26):
Yup. Yup. Hundreds, hundreds of emails we get every month
Alex Garrett (20:31):
How do you make the cut for Able news?
Angela Mellady (20:42):
I actually go through all the emails and, um, I just pick out the, the ones that, that are important, the ones that have good information. Um, it’s, I don’t know. It’s just, uh, there are a lot that come in and a lot to get discarded it. Again, some things don’t have a direct, um, uh, direct disability hook, so we don’t use, um, but the there’s a lot of good, good information, and it does come in that way.
Alex Garrett (21:25):
Obviously, you guys are very in tune with the Games for the Physically Challenged and I always love seeing your, your paper out there. What’s that mean to write that up on the keynote speaker every year, like you do really good work, great work on that. I’ve always wanted to know about the behind the scenes of that.
Angela Mellady (21:47):
We also have the athletes writing little pieces, um, about their experiences at the games. I don’t know if you ever saw that we do the keynote speaker on the cover. And then inside, we have the actual athletes doing, uh, we’ve used their picture and their school name and their age and how they feel about the games, which they, they enjoy that. The Games are really special to me. I was with the games before we started Able Newspaper, which started in 1985. And I I’ve been a volunteer ever since. And again, the games are really a very special program. I don’t know if you know, but there, there were 30, I think 30 committee heads that actually run the games. They’re all volunteers. They’re a one, two, three people at the top that are, that are not volunteers that are paid, but every aspect of the games has, has a committee head. So, uh, there’s a water committee. There’s a food committee.
New Speaker (23:08):
There’s the awards committee. There’s track and field basketball. All of them really. And they all put it together, you know?
Angela Mellady (23:18):
Yeah. And that, those, those, those committee heads are the same people that started in 1985. They keep coming back year after year after year, because they love it so much.
Alex Garrett (23:31):
And so you’re still obviously going to the games even at Able. You still come through and that it’s always special. I used to do that from five to 21 and I love coming back to volunteer and, uh, it was pretty cool. That’s the community we’re in. It’s a very tight knit.
Angela Mellady (23:52):
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Every year. I mean, people it’s like a family. It’s, it’s just, we all come back and just enjoy seeing each other again. After, after a whole year, we kind of missed it this year. Cause we had to cancel them.
Alex Garrett (24:07):
Well, I ended up calling a lot of, uh, a lot of our friends there just to catch up with my dad and I, we were all sitting together. We were sitting together calling all these different people like Susan Maxwell and it was just so cool to just hear their voice. At least, even though it couldn’t happen this year. Uh, but I would say the tight knit community overall is what gets us through these kinds of crises. Wouldn’t you say? And actually helps us with that.
Angela Mellady (24:30):
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Even, even enabled by the community. People, your friends, your, your associates, everybody coming together keeps it, keeps us going.
Alex Garrett (24:46):
From Able News, Angela Mellady, I always like to ask all my guests this, what is one thing? You’re the community and your friends and family may not know about you that you’ve never shared, but are willing to like, what’s one thing people don’t know about the publisher of able news.
Angela Mellady (25:04):
Wow. I’d love to have someone else take over the paper so that I could retire, but I don’t think I’ve told anyone that, but, uh,
Alex Garrett (25:26):
Breaking News! We have a retirement announcement. Not yet, not yet, but I guess soon enough,
Angela Mellady (25:32):
Right. Hopefully I hate to just have to walk away from it and not keep it going. I know a lot of people do get a lot of information from it. So I would hate to have to just stop. So I’m about to start looking for ways to keep it going.
Alex Garrett (25:54):
Well, anything that Adapting with Alex Garrett could do, what can we do to help you in that process?
Angela Mellady (26:01):
I guess, find someone who’s interested in, in publishing a newspaper either. I think it would have to be an organization that’s involved with people with disabilities or a group of newspapers that would add it to their, to their collection of newspapers that they publish.
Alex Garrett (26:24):
Well, I will definitely keep an ear out and an eye out and I can, uh, I can put some feelers out if you want, but for now, you’re still there, your soul at the helm. I guess it’s really to figure out what December is going to be, but I’m guessing it’s going to be an election result, recap type of thing. And what what’s next.
Angela Mellady (26:45):
Yeah, yeah. Um, yeah, depending on who wins, uh, it’ll, it’ll either be really good for the disabled community or maybe status quo. Um, that’ll, that’ll probably be December and looking forward to the next year and, and how we can start. I don’t even know if we’ll be able to start getting back to normal. I mean, Dr. Fauci doesn’t think we’ll be able to do that for almost another year, which is a little disheartening, but, um, it’s a very hard time we’re going through an especially hard for people with disabilities.
Alex Garrett (27:30):
Well, and that’s why I think talking about things that could be that, that are uplifting like you guys are doing and it’ll distract us from, from the reality of things. That’s, that’s what my hope is to just yes, face reality, but also what can we do to just say, Hey, there is some light here in this very dark tunnel and we seem to be in, and, you know, as the clock turns every year, it’s very tough with the sun. It just sets at like four o’clock and you’re like, what do I do now? Because it’s so dark out right now, you got a pandemic that this is happening. And I can’t imagine, um, what what’s going through people’s minds, but I guess the hope is to ease their mind. Right?
Angela Mellady (28:11):
Alex Garrett (28:14):
And so I would say Able Newspaper does that. They give you the, the real news and they also give you some, you know, positivity and uplifting. They say the newspaper positively for, by and about the disabled community. Ablenews.com. Are you guys on Twitter at all? Or
Angela Mellady (28:32):
We are, we are. We’re on both
Alex Garrett (28:35):
At Able News. I’m guessing. All right, well, we’ll find you there and we’ll tag it here and I’m Alex Garrett, Angela Mellady. Thank you so much for joining and giving us an insight into this beautiful paper that you guys are and, and please stay in touch.
Angela Mellady (28:51):
Thank you so much, Alex.
Alex Garrett (28:53):
This has been Adapting with Alex and remember to adapt with us each and every episode.