Skip to main content
Jason Strother smiles at the camera.


Globetrotting in Pursuit of Journalism

Play audio version

Meet DJP Mentor Jason Strother

June 2, 2022

Jason Strother, a multimedia journalist, educator, and newly appointed Disability Justice Project (DJP) mentor, has shuttled between Seoul and New Jersey to pursue his zeal for journalism. “I really felt journalism was the best vehicle for me to meet new people, to learn new things, and to explore the world, and it’s worked out that way,” he says.

Strother landed in South Korea in late September 2006, giving himself three months to find freelance work. He met his deadline. Within a week or so of his arrival, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test. Reporting on South Korean reactions to North Korea’s first nuclear test launched his freelance career. “So I went out with my microphone and found some people to interview … on a nearby college campus about their views on North Korea. I interviewed the guy who I was renting a room from, and his mother … who had escaped North Korea 60 years earlier around the time of the Korean War and I filed that report,” he says. “The work kept coming in more and more after that.” 

Strother has freelanced for news platforms around the globe, including The World, NPR, South China Morning Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Now, he is on the advisory board of the National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University. Much of Strother’s reporting focuses on disability and accessibility today. He perceives journalism as a great career for people with disabilities to contribute to storytelling. He believes people without disabilities cannot be left to report on topics that concern people with disabilities. “I think people with disabilities, journalists with disabilities, bring a much-needed perspective in covering this type of stories,” he says.

The 42-year-old grew up in a middle-class family in New Jersey. “For someone with a visual disability like myself, there were just no opportunities in my hometown area, which is pretty rural,” he says. Lack of opportunities and inaccessible transportation in his hometown led him to study abroad and pursue travel.

After 15 years of immersing himself in freelance journalism abroad, Strother moved back home and founded Lens15 Media, a disability news agency. In the last two months, Strother received two grants for Lens15 Media – one from the UC Berkeley – 11th Hour Food and Farming Journalism Fellowship and another from the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium. His news organization focuses on teaching how to cover disability in accessible ways and is working to establish a network of local and independent news outlets distributing its accessible, multimedia reports. 

Jason Strother, a white, middle-aged man with short brown hair, sits a desk stacked with various newspapers and a MacBook laptop. He is wearing a gray button-down shirt.
Strother sits at a desk stacked with newspapers and a MacBook laptop.

In 2019, while searching through organizations offering grants, Strother came across the National Geographic Explorer opportunity. The National Geographic Society states that Explorers are “exceptional individuals in their fields” who “illuminate and protect our world through their work in science, exploration, education, and storytelling.” Strother became an Explorer in 2020, focusing on the impact of climate change on Indonesians and Bangladeshis with disabilities. “This intersection [of climate change and disability] is grossly unreported, and it’s really only been in the past few years that disability rights advocates have reached the floor of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations, and other world bodies … to point out that severe weather, sea-level rise … all this type of phenomena associated with climate change is impacting people with disabilities arguably the worst, especially in developing countries,” he says.

The COVID-19 pandemic initially halted Strother’s Explorer work in 2020, but he will return to Asia this July. He wants to learn about disability advocacy and rights in Indonesia, where the current cohort of DJP fellows is based. Strother will be the first mentor to connect with his DJP mentee, Retta Maha, in person. He is excited about helping his mentee “improve their journalism and storytelling skills.”

Well-versed in guiding emerging storytellers, Strother has been a journalism and disability media adjunct professor at his alma mater, Montclair State University, for a little over 10 years. At the university, he has created three courses: “How to Become a Foreign Correspondent,” “Films about Journalism,” and “Disability in Media.” He is launching an audio description writing course within the university’s school of communication and media with colleagues this fall. 

Strother received his broadcasting and television production degree at Montclair State University in 2003, where he was the first admitted student with a visual disability in his program. He moved to New York to work for News 12 The Bronx, a local cable news outlet, after graduation. He came in as an assignment editor and later became a producer, overseeing the nightly newscast. At first, he did not disclose his disability. Reflecting on his time at News 12 The Bronx, he says, “I would not advise job seekers now to hide their disability. I think we live in a better time, a more inclusive time,”

Strother’s advice to up-and-coming media advocates is to let their voices be heard so government officials and editors at media outlets can take disability and accessibility seriously. Working, producing, and learning new things keep him going: “I feel I’m most happy and I feel most fulfilled when I’m making interesting reports that are informative and kind of shed light on whatever topic it is that I’m reporting on.” 

Bukola Badmus is a 2021 fellow with the Disability Justice Project and the financial secretary and Lagos state coordinator for LALIF. @2022 LALIF. All rights reserved.

Michelle Faulkner is a staff editor at the Disability Justice Project.

News From the Global Frontlines of Disability Justice

A collage of photos showing inaccessible polling stations.

Democracy Denied

In 2024, a record number of voters worldwide will head to the polls, but many disabled individuals still face significant barriers. In India, inaccessible electronic voting machines and polling stations hinder the ability of disabled voters to cast their ballots independently. Despite legal protections and efforts to improve accessibility, systemic issues continue to prevent many from fully participating in the world’s largest democracy. ““All across India, the perception of having made a place accessible,” says Vaishnavi Jayakumar of Disability Rights Alliance, “is to put a decent ramp at the entrance and some form of quasi-accessible toilet.”

Read more about Democracy Denied

An illustration of DJP fellow Esther Suubbi and some of her peers.

Triumph Over Despair

DJP Fellow Esther Suubi shares her journey of finding purpose in supporting others with psychosocial disabilities. She explores the transformative power of peer support and her evolution to becoming an advocate for mental health. “Whenever I see people back on their feet and thriving, they encourage me to continue supporting others so that I don’t leave anyone behind,” she says. “It is a process that is sometimes challenging, but it also helps me to learn, unlearn, and relearn new ways that I can support someone – and myself.”

Read more about Triumph Over Despair

Daniel Mushimiyimana from the Rwanda Union of the Blind, sits in a row of chairs at a conference.

‘Our Vote Matters’

As Rwanda prepares for its presidential elections, voices like Daniel Mushimiyimana’s have a powerful message: every vote counts, including those of citizens with disabilities. Despite legal frameworks like the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, challenges persist in translating these into practical, accessible voting experiences for over 446,453 Rwandans with disabilities. To cast a vote, blind people need to take a sighted relative to read the ballot. An electoral committee member must be present, violating the blind person’s voting privacy. “We want that to change in these coming elections,” says Mushimiyimana.

Read more about ‘Our Vote Matters’

Srijana KC smiles at the camera. She has long dark hair and is wearing a red scarf and green cardigan sweater.

Voices Unsilenced

Often dismissed as a personal concern, mental health is a societal issue, according to Srijana KC, who works as a psychosocial counselor for the Nepali organization KOSHISH. KC’s own history includes a seizure disorder, which resulted in mental health challenges. She faced prejudice in both educational settings and the workplace, which pushed her towards becoming a street vendor to afford her medications. Now with KOSHISH, she coordinates peer support gatherings in different parts of Nepal. “It is crucial to instill hope in society, recognizing that individuals with psychosocial disabilities can significantly contribute,” she says.

Read more about Voices Unsilenced

Three fellows with the Disability Justice Project stand behind their cameras in a room. One is blind and one is low vision.

Capturing Vision Through Sound and Touch

Last summer, the DJP trained Indigenous activists with disabilities from the Pacific on the iPhone camera to create a documentary series on disability and climate change. With VoiceOver, the iPhone provides image descriptions for blind and low-vision filmmakers and offers other accessible features. “If you think about it, it doesn’t make sense for a blind person to use a camera,” says DJP filmmaker Ari Hazelman. “The iPhone gives you more avenues to tell your story in a more profound way as a blind person.”

Read more about Capturing Vision Through Sound and Touch

Sharma sits next to one of his subjects - a man from the nomadic Raute people.

Beyond the Frame

DJP mentor Kishor Sharma is known for his long-term photography and film projects exploring community and change. Over the last 12 years, he has been documenting the nomadic Raute people in mountainous Nepal. With any project, Sharma aims to actively engage participants, sharing photography and videography techniques. In September, Sharma became a mentor to DJP Fellow Chhitup Lama. He was eager to connect “this idea of sharing the visual technique with the storytelling idea and the issue of disability inclusion.”

Read more about Beyond the Frame