NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship

Thanks to a generous contribution from NBCUniversal, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is proud to announce that applications for the 2022 NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship are now open.

The NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship offers eight (8) scholarships to be used in the fall semester of 2022 to incoming and undergraduate students (at any accredited college or university), and graduate students with disabilities who are pursuing careers in media, communications, or entertainment industries that will be enrolled in college or a university during Fall 2022 are eligible. Each recipient will receive $5,625 to help cover the cost of education at their college or university.


Tony Coelho

Former Congressman Tony Coelho

This scholarship has been named in honor of Tony Coelho, a former United States Representative from California and the primary author and sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the House.

Coelho was elected to Congress in 1978 and served for six terms until 1989. During his terms, Coelho authored the original ADA, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. By 1994, the U.S. Census Bureau reported 800,000 more people with severe disabilities were employed than when the ADA was first enacted, in large part thanks to the work of Coelho, his successors, and predecessors.

From 1994 to 2001, after being appointed by President Bill Clinton, Coelho served as Chairman of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. He also worked as the Vice Chair of the National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities. In 1998, Clinton appointed Coelho as the United States Commissioner General at the 1998 World Expo in Portugal. Clinton also appointed Coelho as Co-Chair to the U.S. Census Monitoring Board, a position he held until his appointment as general chairman of the Gore Presidential Campaign.

From June 2009 to June 2011, Coelho served as the Chairman of AAPD.

The 2022 cycle is now closed. Please check back in Spring 2023 for more information.

Scholarship Application Process


Applicants for the 2022 NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship must: 

  • Be currently enrolled as an undergraduate or graduate student at and plan to be enrolled during the fall 2022 semester, or (2) a current high school senior and plan to enroll at a college or university during the fall 2022 semester
  • Self-identify as a person with any type of disability
  • Be interested in pursuing a career in communications, media, or entertainment (all majors are welcome to apply, including computer science, engineering, information technology, statistics, etc)
  • Currently attending a college or university in the United States, or plan to attend a college or university in the United States during the fall 2022 semester. You do NOT need to be a U.S. citizen in order to qualify.

PLEASE NOTE: You will not be required to disclose your specific disability at any point in the application, selection, or scholarship process. However, your application for this scholarship will signify that you self-identify as a person with a disability. This is a scholarship run specifically for students with disabilities by AAPD.

Applicants for the 2022 NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship release information provided on their application for use by AAPD, program funders, and potential employers.

Deferral Policy

The NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship requires that recipients must maintain continuous fall semester enrollment at their university. If awarded, students who will not be enrolled in Fall 2022 semester must notify AAPD by July 15, 2022, or as soon as reasonably possible when an unanticipated leave is required. 

A deferment is used when a student is not enrolled at their university for the Fall 2022 semester in which the NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship is offered. The deferment can be extended within one year from the awarded date (i.e. Fall 2023). 


Approval of a deferment extends semesters of eligibility only. It does  not increase the amount of the award in any semester. Students must maintain the renewal requirement (i.e. pursuing a career in communications, media, or entertainment industry) for continuation of the award to be eligible for a deferment.

Late Notice

A deferment request cannot be approved if the student requests after the deadline of July 15, 2022.

Requirements for Seeking Deferment

If the reasons for requesting deferment are other than the student’s own mental health, injury, or disability, student must:

  • Attach a personal statement explaining circumstances of the request, which should be no longer than one page in length
  • Attach supporting documentation (e.g. letter of support from academic advisor, letter of acceptance to non-university study abroad program, call to active duty, etc)

Regardless if a student is requesting deferment related to or other than student’s own mental health, injury, or disability, students must email AAPD’s Programs Director at scholarship@aapd.com with the official university deferment letter by the deadline and the official university re-enrollment letter when applicable.

Application Process

Applications must be received by Thursday, May 19, 2022 by 5:00pm ET. Applicants must submit an online application with the following information:

  • Resume
  • Unofficial transcript from current college or university
  • Three (3) 300-word essays (topics provided below)
  • One (1) letter of recommendation from a professor, academic advisor, or mentor. If preferred to send directly to AAPD, please email the letter to scholarship@aapd.com with the title “(First and Last Name) – 2022 NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship”
  • Additional portfolio of creative work (optional)

The essay questions are as follows: 

  • Essay 1: Share your career goals related in media, communications, or entertainment industries and how these goals will advance the disability rights movement. (300 words max)

  • Essay 2: Describe a past experience related to media, communications, or entertainment that you are most proud of and please share why. (300 words max)

  • Essay 3: Which career path with media, communications, and entertainment (examples: marketing, public relations, production, performance, research, journalism, etc) are you most interested in and why? (300 words max)

It is recommended the applicant should type up their essay answers in a separate word processing form in case there is an error with submitting an application. All applications must be submitted with all required attachments via the application portal. We are not able to consider incomplete applications.

Next Steps

Completed applications received by AAPD by Thursday, May 19, 2022 by 5:00 pm ET will be collected and submitted for review by our Selection Committee. 

PLEASE NOTE: All applicants will be evaluated based on demonstrated leadership characteristics, involvement with the disability community, engagement within the communications and/or media and entertainment fields, and success in coursework. AAPD reserves the right to alter this list of criteria during the selection process.

Our Selection Committee will select applications for a final review.

All applicants will be notified of a decision by mid-July 2022.

Please contact scholarship@aapd.com or 202-521-4316 with any questions or concerns.

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