By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – In 1999, Shrewsbury Licensed Mental Health Counselor Robbin Miller was weary of seeing people with disabilities being cast as heroes in the media. She called the local cable station, Shrewsbury Media Connection, to ask if they would do a show promoting people with disabilities not as heroes or stories of inspiration, but as regular people who can face daily obstacles in their lives. The station manager arranged for her to learn how to produce her own programs. Miller is now celebrating 20 years as a volunteer host of a disability advocacy show that airs on Shrewsbury Public Access Channel 28.
Soon after the station manager invited Miller to be trained in production skills, she got busy learning how to use the cameras, lights and editing equipment.
“I had zero talent in this endeavor as my education has been in the social sciences and not in cable broadcasting,” Miller said.
Miller began producing shows that educated Shrewsbury viewers about the daily obstacles people with disabilities face due to lack of understanding, embarrassment or fear. One of Miller’s main goals was to foster understanding and sensitivity among those without disabilities and help them recognize the similarities between both groups, how they each have individual needs and priorities.
“I wanted viewers to see persons with disabilities as a whole person just like themselves,” Miller said.
She emphasized why it is important to make equal access a priority via shoveled sidewalks, and elimination of barriers that prohibit people from moving freely in public buildings, parks and schools. She worked to promote the need for healthcare providers, politicians, school administrators, and other residents to become more educated about how to interact with people with disabilities and what they could do to support a high quality of life and an ability for all people to reach their full potential.
Miller has received recognition for her work. A video she created in 2006 with Sonya Perduta titled, “Promoting Community-based Services for Persons with Disabilities,” won a national award from the Alliance for Community Media and sold over 100 tapes to organizations and agencies.
She won another award from the alliance in 2007 for a show about Ted Mahan, owner of Forgeworks Farm in Rutland, who has programs for children with special needs and his horses who are either retired or have disabilities themselves.
Miller’s total show count now tops 400, with her shows from 2000 also airing at www.youtube.com/millerchat.
She’s experienced numerous meaningful moments on her shows. One year, she was told by a guest that someone who felt sad saw her on Miller’s show discussing mental health empowerment and became inspired to contact the guest for more information.
“I enjoy having fun and being able to create interesting shows that impact viewers on different levels from being personal to themselves and/or to people or family members they care about,” Miller said.
After being at it for 20 years, Miller said she plans to continue producing shows. Her 9-year-old son, EJ, has appeared on a few shows with her and she’s hoping he will become interested in learning more about creating his own shows in the future.