Socially Mediating Disability Awareness

Workshop Notes for 2010 Global Teach-In at ASU.

Our GOALS for participants:
  1. Develop an eye for watching movies that include, portray, or are relevant to issues of disability or difference. Be able to answer: Is this a good representation of disability? Can I imagine a situation that a person with a disability might face?
  2. Access to tools for mediation:
    • Discussion about diverse views
    • Showing one use of social media tools that could provide others with access to a larger group of people who are concerned with disability awareness, as well as a conversation pool that can be used for sharing insights or media related to disability.
    • Providing a list of clips that provide different representations of disability, to communicate about awareness.
The Individual - Personal Achievmenet

a) Blind Skier’s Edge – (2:06)

Blind Skier's Edge

  • What is the function or purpose of this film?
  • Why would you want to ski if you were blind? Or, why wouldn’t you?**
  • What skills would you need to ski if you are blind? (Keen sense of hearing? A good guide? A passion to ski? Ability to trust another person?)

b) Dear Wheelchair Maker – (4:35)

Dear Wheelchair Maker

  • Telling one’s story, using humor
  • Exemplifies all the constraints and inconveniences and shows how he managed to do more physically challenging activities than most of us will ever do in our lifetimes.
  • How does the first image of him typing on the keyboard make you feel?
  • How do the subsequent images of him in his adventures make you feel?
  • After seeing the film in its entirety, would you think of him now as disabled? Or super-human? 
  • What does disability have anything to do with him anymore?


Overcoming and Acceptance – Losing something to gain a new perspective

c) Farther Than the Eye Can See – (2:57)

Farther Than the Eye Can See

  • Here is a story of a super-human climbing Mt. Everest, and he happens to be blind.
  • How does his journey make you feel? 
  • What questions would you have for him?

d)  Andy Andrews – Interviews Blind Climber, Erik Weihenmeyer – (10:08)

Interview with Eric

  • Acceptance
    •  “My success came out of accepting … the what is” – 1:40
    • Learning to deal within that realm, creating, bypassing  - 2:20
  • Creativity & Vision
    • Can gain strength from adversity, can channel frustrations into more energy, can enable you to be more creative – 3:00
    • Vision – how we see ourselves living our lives and serving other people – 3:50
  • (IF TIME)
    • Taking fear and translating it into focus; don’t allow fear to cloud your focus – 5:45
    • Everyday Life & Overcoming
      • As summit can be anything. It can be the moment we realize that we can transform our lives into anything we want them to be. People can miss summits all the time. – 8:30 to end.


e) Rachel Is – (1:58)

Rachel Is

  • Complexity of independence, family, and raising a child who has been labeled as having an intellectual disability
  • Lisa’s personal story at the Equity Alliance blog:
  • In this film, Rachel's "mental capacity" has been reached (i.e., she will no longer grow or mature in her independence). How can we know if this is true?
  • What if a person will always remain the same? What if a person remains constant?


f) Bowling Blind – (2:05)

Bowling Blind

  • Often times, people get grouped together because of their disability.
  • How do you think these organizations serve or function to serve their members? (Is it a support group? Is it advocacy? Is it rehabilitation? Is it around a shared interest?)

Art and expression

g) AXIS Dance Company (2:30)

Forgone -

Foregone - Axis Dance

  • This is a highly-respected dance company.
  • About performing themselves, not their disability.
  • What messages might these types of performances send?

h) Greg Walloch, comedian, "About to Eat Cake" (start at 4:00 + 4min.) –

Greg Walloch - About to Eat Cake

Extra clips

i) There’s Still Hope for Dreams: A PHAMALY Story (2:47) - trailer - interview with PHAMALY troupe - organization website

  • This is a troupe in Denver of actors with disabilities that has existed for 20 seasons.
  • They do regular projects (such as Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz), but the plays take an entirely different slants due to the nature of the actors. Sometimes, they put their disability at the forefront.
  • Without having seen this film, what expectations or conclusions have we drawn about it, and why?
  • Do the images or aesthetics (e.g., graphics, titles, film angles, use of audio) influence your perceptions or expectations of this film? If yes, how?
  • How does this make you feel?
  • Are they exploiting themselves?

j) I Am Sam - - courtroom scene

I Am Sam - Courtroom Scene

  • Why are there mentally different actors in the film, but Sean Penn is not?
  • When you see this film, what is your expectation?
    • Conjecture: All Hollywood films will not disappoint you? Or, is it going to disappoint you in some way?
    • If this was a real-life situation, do you think this would actually happen?
    • Since the focus is on the story … what is the outcome of the film? What is its purpose?
    • If it’s nothing special, it won’t be in Hollywood movies.

 k) Lest We Forget: Silent Voices – (2:49)

Lest We Forget

  • Historical, about institutions and institutionalization of kids
  • Comes out of eugenics movements
  • What years do you think this was filmed? (1970s)
  • Why did we institutionalize? Fear? Community pressure? Perception that people are not fully human? That they are void?
  • What were or are we afraid of?
  • Could we see people as people with inconveniences, not with disability?

m) The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - (2:19) – trailer - (start at 4:00) – actual clip

Diving Bell and the Butterfly

  • Based on the trailer, what do you think this film is about? (explain then what it is about)
  • How does the trailer/film portray the main character? How does this draw viewers into the film? Or does it?
  • Is / how is the cinematography of this film critical or not critical to the telling of this story? The success of this film?
  • What makes these two clips different? What function does each serve in mediating our perceptions of disability, or our perception of issues around disability as a form of entertainment? 

Open questions for workshop participants:

After seeing these images, is there anything that you think you could not do? Is there anything that you think another person might not be able to do?

If yes, what would hold you (or that person) back?

What should hold that person back? (their choice not to do it)

What actually does hold people back? (others’ perceptions of our abilities; our own perceptions of our abilities; our perceptions of others’ abilities; our unwillingness to provide supports for those who desire to live and experience the world as they would)