Disabled Host, With the Emphasis on Able
By JON CARAMANICA The New York Times December 11, 2011
Zach Anner is the most engaging personality on a network that needs them badly. The host of the travel show “Rollin’ With Zach,” which has its premiere on Monday night on OWN, the floundering Oprah Winfrey Network, with two episodes, he’s witty and charming and mildly zany.
And also disabled. Mr. Anner has cerebral palsy — “the sexiest of the palsies,” he says in the show’s intro, a joke repurposed from his audition tape for the reality competition “Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star,” which ran earlier this year, and of which he was one of two winners. The Oprah Winfrey Network has been on for almost a year and has tended toward the sorts of self-help pablum that sounds great coming from the mouth of Ms. Winfrey, but it has otherwise offered quickly diminishing returns.
The inspiration in Mr. Anner’s story is implicit. Unlike most travel shows, on which the hosts feign omnipotence and fearlessness, “Rollin’ With Zach” often reveals Mr. Anner adjusting for his disability. Concern for his well-being is embedded into the show, as is the sense that things will not always go smoothly.
Both initial episodes conclude with Mr. Anner attempting a water activity, surfing and then water-skiing, which he succeeds at, with some hitches. On a chair-swing ride at Navy Pier in Chicagothe look of ecstasy on his face at the freedom of movement is genuine. So is the look of worry before he goes onstage at Carolines, the Times Square comedy club. “When I get real excited, my muscles go into spasm, so they just shake,” he says, his leg vibrating.
As a travel show “Rollin’ With Zach” is a trifle, with only the barest of information given out. But it’s enough to have Mr. Anner on television, not only as a role model but also because — as on “Your OWN Show,” where he was the obvious star — he makes for relatable, unpredictable watching.
At a speed-dating event a woman tells him she wants to be a catalog model, to which he shouts, “Give me your best Christmas sweater face!” In a Chicago ice cream shop that creates custom flavors on the spot using liquid nitrogen, he corners the proprietor. “I have to ask you the moral question,” he says. “Are we playing God here?”
Next week’s episode brings him to New York, and part of the show centers on his training for a two-minute amateur-night slot at Carolines. “A lot of people come up to me and they say, ‘Zach, I feel really bad for you because you’re in a wheelchair,’ ” he says onstage. “They shouldn’t. I don’t think that people understand how comfortable sitting is.”
Forget the travel show, Oprah. Give him a sitcom.
Living & Working with Epilepsy
Workplace Accommodations for Job Seekers
Is employment affected by epilepsy? Most people with epilepsy are able to work in the full range of jobs. Neither the condition itself nor the treatments for it will affect their ability to work. There are people with epilepsy serving successfully in every walk of life. Unfortunately, epilepsy is often still stigmatized and people face discrimination. Sometimes people are reluctant to tell their employers they have epilepsy or seizures because they learn through bitter experiences that it can be used against them.
Connect with eCommunities in the Epilepsy & Employment forum! People with epilepsy can face significant challenges in the workplace, and many advocacy efforts are underway to increase the employment and success rates for people with epilepsy in the workplace. The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted to prohibit disability-based discrimination. Many provisions of theADA have particular impact on people with epilepsy, including inclusion for safety-sensitive jobs and reasonable accommodation.
Other Resource Links
Understand key issues that arise when people with epilepsy function in the workplace.
Credit: Epilepsy.com/Epilepsy Therapy Project.
These resources links address such issues as:
- Getting a Job
- Safety-Sensitive Jobs
- Changing Jobs
- Epilepsy as a Disability
- Reasonable Accommodation
- Missing Work and Your Rights under Federal Law
- Permissible Medical Exams and Inquiries
- Financially Surviving a Leave of Absence
For this and more information on “Working with Epilepsy” you can contact the Epilepsy Foundation at 8301 Professional Place, Landover MD 20785 www.epilepsyfoundation.org tel.: 1-800-332-1000 fax: 1-301-577-2684 en Español: 1-866-748-8008.