Springfield College Associate Professor of Communications Jody Santos Receives Advocate for Justice Award


Springfield College Associate Professor of Communications Jody Santos recently served as the keynote speaker at the 2015 Stavros Access Awards at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, Mass. Santos also received the Advocate for Justice Award at the event for her documentary titled No One Left Behind, which embodied the injustices suffered by people with disabilities throughout the world.

Santos’ film chronicled the work of Disability Rights International (DRI), the first human rights organization to bring international attention to the millions of children and adults with disabilities who are locked away in orphanages, psychiatric wards, and other facilities around the world.

"This is one of the most heartbreaking stories I've ever had to tell,” said Santos, an award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker who has been producing and directing documentaries for PBS and cable networks like Discovery Health and the Hallmark Channel since 2000. “The suffering and abuse I witnessed in institutions in the Republic of Georgia and Mexico stays with me today and fueled my desire to make this film the best it can be. What we are talking about is an enormous waste of human potential, people languishing, essentially, in prisons because of the stigma of disabilities around the world."

Santos hosted a premier of the documentary on campus in March 2015 and was joined by DRI President Laurie Ahern and Executive Director Eric Rosenthal, who took part in a question and answer segment after a screening of the film. Based in Washington, D.C., DRI was established by Rosenthal in 1993 and the organization documents human rights abuses, publishes reports on human rights enforcement, and promotes international oversight of the rights of people with mental disabilities.

Drawing on the skills and experience of attorneys, mental health professionals, human rights advocates, and people with mental disabilities and their family members, the DRI trains and supports advocates who are seeking legal and service system reform and assists governments in developing laws and policies to promote community integration and human rights enforcement for people with mental disabilities. The organization is forging new alliances throughout the world to challenge the discrimination and abuse faced by people with mental disabilities, as well as working with locally based advocates to create new advocacy projects and to promote citizen participation and human rights for children and adults.

The annual Stavros Access Awards celebrate businesses, community organizations, and individuals that make the Pioneer Valley an inclusive and accessible place to live for people with disabilities. This year in observance of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Stavros has aimed to remind the community of how much the area has changed over the years. Stavros has offices throughout Western Massachusetts and has a mission to help persons with disabilities and deaf people develop the tools and skills they need to take charge of their own lives. This is accomplished through programs and services designed to meet the needs of persons of any age or disability as they work to achieve the life goals that are important to them.

Founded in 1885, Springfield College is known worldwide for the guiding principles of its Humanics philosophy—educating students in spirit, mind and body for leadership in service to others. With its foundation of academic excellence and rich athletic heritage, Springfield College prepares students with real-world leadership skills for careers that transform lives and communities. The college offers a range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the fields of health sciences, human and social services, sport management and movement studies, education, business, and the arts and sciences. It also offers doctoral programs in physical education, physical therapy, and counseling psychology. The college is ranked in the 2016 edition of “Best Colleges” in the top tier of “Best Regional Universities – North Region” by U.S.News and World Report, and is designated as a premier Leadership Development Center by the YMCA of the USA. More than 5,000 traditional, nontraditional and international students study at its main campus in Springfield, Mass., and at its School of Human Services campuses across the country.