Cheryl Green, a media partner of the Disability Visibility Project, recently discovered a documentary first broadcast on PBS in 1997, “My Country.” This is a blog post about that documentary first published on November 28, 2014. Below are a few excerpts.
I run into people who say something is accessible to people with disabilities when it so very much isn’t. For instance, a building might have ten stairs to the front door and no elevator, but it’s called accessible. (You know, just have some folks carry disabled people in who can’t walk the stairs. Never mind there’s no dignity or agency in that.) I think often they don’t know what access is. They most certainly don’t know about the huge range of disability experiences that are possible and how those intersect with other identities and experiences. Because accessibility is so much more than ramps in place of stairs.
The other thing I hear is, “Well, you have the ADA. Just make a complaint and get someone to be more accessible.” Oh, sigh. If only. But hardly. The Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t work that way. There’s no complaint department. There’s no incentive to fix things. There’s loopholes people use to avoid fixing problems. Buildings and websites are still being built, and New York subway stations renovated, without including any accessibility features at all. Yes, even though it’s the law. (There’s collection of different laws that govern employment, buildings, websites, movies, airplanes, schools, etc. But most people call all of it the ADA.)
The other thing that I hear, see, and experience, is that the disability rights movement is still primarily led by white people. It’s long past time that needs to change.
In 1997, PBS aired a documentary called “My Country.” Here’s the description from the ADA.gov website: “symphony conductor James DePreist, who contracted polio as a young man, profiles three people with disabilities whose lives have been shaped by the struggle for equal rights. Mr. DePreist is the nephew of African American contralto Marian Anderson, who in 1939 was prevented from singing at Constitution Hall. He draws parallels between racial barriers and the barriers faced by people with disabilities.” Maestro DePreist doesn’t just draw the parallels; he has lived them. And he knows that inaccessibility isn’t caused by stairs or other physical barriers but by the attitudes that allow and perpetuate these obstacles. Just like being African-American isn’t a problem; it’s racist attitudes and institutions that have created massive inequality.
Read the entire blog post: http://whoamitostopit.com/2014/11/28/james-depreist-my-country-documentary/
“My Country” documentary:
Cheryl Green is a writer, director, filmmaker and founder of StoryMinders. StoryMinders work revolves around education and advocacy and using film as a dynamic tool for social justice from within the brain injury and disability communities.
“Film can bring personal stories to life while challenging the stigma, isolation, and social inequities people with disabilities routinely experience.” –Cheryl Green
One StoryMinders project is the film “Who Am I To Stop It,” a documentary film on isolation, art, and transformation after brain injury.
Who Am I To Stop It: http://whoamitostopit.com