Videos provide classroom access to disability issues

(Note: Many more videos than those listed below cover disability issues. The following list was selected based on their ability to disseminate disability rights information and their multi-faceted portrayals of people with disabilities.)

By Beth Haller
Secretary, Media & Disability Interest Group

     Integrating disability issues into the mass communication or journalism classroom can be an exciting new direction for course materials.
     Because the students respond well to visual narratives, documentaries on video provide a wonderful way to make students aware of disability issues, as well as showing them good examples of non-fiction filmmaking.
     The following list provides suggestions for documentary videos that give students and faculty access to easily understood information about disability issues. At the end of the list are addresses of the video distributors.

“Abandoned to Their Fate”
Description:  The video looks at the origin of social policy about and cultural stereotypes of people with severe disabilities.
Length: 30 min.
Distributor: School Projects Publications

“Bong and Donnell”
Description:  The video follows two best friends, one with a disability and one without, from elementary school through high school graduation.
Creators:  Susan Hadary and William A. Whiteford
Length: 56 min.
Awards: Two Emmys, St. Aton Foundation Award, 1996 Disability Film Festival
Distributor: Video Press

“Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien”
Description:  A profile of Mark O’Brien, a journalist and poet who has lived in an iron lung for 40 years.
Creator: Jessica Yu
Length: 35 min.
Awards: Academy Award, Best Short Documentary; Special Apple, National Educational Media Network; Sundance Film Festival.
Distributor: Fanlight

“Freedom, Equality and Justice for All”
Description: A video on the self advocacy movement and civil rights for people with disabilities.
Length: 29 min.
Distributor: Program Development Associates

“If I Can’t Do It”
Description: A portrait of Arthur Campbell, a man with cerebral palsy who was kept at home for 38 years, but then breaks free to live independently and become a disability activist.
Creator: Walter Brock
Length: 57 min.
Distributor: Fanlight

“A Little History Worth Knowing”
Description: A discussion of disability history, as well as media stereotypes of disability.
Length: 22 min.
Distributor: Program Development Associates

“Living with Grace”
Description: The video follows the lives of Grace Kirkland, who has progressive dementia disorder, and her caregiver husband, Glenn, over the years.
Creators: Susan Hadary and William Whiteford
Length: 28 min.
Distributors: Video Press

“My Country”
Description: James DePriest, a polio survivor and symphony conductor, profiles three people active in the disability rights movement.
Creator: Access Video Fund
Length: 58 min.

“Nazi Medicine: In the Shadow of the Reich”
Description: A look at the Third Reich’s medical regime and its genocide of people with disabilities.
Creator: John J. Michalczyk
Length: 40 min.
Awards: 1997 TASH Media Award
Distributor: Program Development Associates

“People in Motion: Changing Ideas about Physical Disability”
Description:  A three-part series focusing on the independence model of disability versus the medical model (part 1), technology that assists people with disabilities (part 2), and adaptive ways in which people live independently (part 3).
Length: Each part is 60 minutes.
Distributor: Fanlight

“Rachael, Being Five” & “Rachael in Middle School”
Description: These videos follow a girl with cerebral palsy through her years mainstreamed in Maryland public schools.
Creators: Susan Hadary and William Whiteford
Length: 28 min. each
Distributor: Video Press

“Twitch and Shout”
Description:  This video explores the world of people who live with Tourette’s Syndrome. The video looks at Tourette’s through the eyes of a photojournalist.
Creator: Laurel Chiten
Length: 57 min.
Distributor: Fanlight

“A Video Guide to (Dis)Ability Awareness”
Description: A training video to better help interaction between able-bodied and disabled people.
Length: 25 min.
Awards: Freddie Award, International Health & Medical Film Festival
Distributor: Fanlight

“Vital Signs: Crip Culture Talks Back”
Description: This documentary looks at disability rights through the lens of performance artists and activists in an effort to examine disability culture.
Creators: David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder
Length: 48 min.
Awards: Grand Prize, Rehabilitation International World Congress; Achievement Award, Superfest; Bronze Apple, National Educational Media Network.
Distributor: Fanlight

“When Billy Broke His Head”
Description: Billy Golfus, a journalist who became brain-injured, explores his own experience as a person with a disability, as well as the disability rights movement.
Creator: Billy Golfus
Length: 57 min.
Awards: Freedom of Expression Award, Sundance Film Festival
Distributor: Fanlight

“Positive Images”
Description: Three women with various disabilities and lifestyles discuss their experiences and perspectives on life.
Distributor: Women Make Movies

Addresses of the Video Distributors:

Fanlight productions
47 Halifax St.
Boston, MA 02130
Phone: 1-800-937-4113

Program Development Associates
5620 Business Ave., Suite B
Cicero, NY 13039
Phone: 1-800-543-2119

School Projects Publications
Specialized Training Program
1235 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-1235
Phone: (541) 346-2488

Video Press
University of Maryland, Baltimore
School of Medicine
Suite 133
100 Penn St.
Baltimore, MD 21201-1082
Phone: 1-800-328-7450

Women Make Movies
225 Lafayette St. #207
NY, NY 10012
Phone: 212-529-7514