Plunkett: We should reframe how we think about disability

Rory Plunkett

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

The Arc of Larimer County featured its seventh annual film festival at the Lory Student Center, called ReFrame Disability. The festival featured local and international short films that all worked to spread awareness.

Ad

This event was important for Colorado State University students to attend — especially those that do not have a disability. Students need to take the initiative to learn more about this topic so CSU’s campus can have a holistic approach to its principles of inclusion.

According to the University of Washington, when it comes to people with disabilities, a truly inclusive campus takes a holistic approach to addressing the topic by not only focusing on the disadvantages of disabilities but the capabilities of the people with them. 

One of the first videos shown was a music video from Rudely Interrupted, an Australian band in which five of its six members have a physical and/or mental disability.

The song shown at the festival was called “Close My Eyes.” The music video does a great job of showing how easy it is to misjudge people with disabilities just from their looks. The video is shot in a completely dark room for the intro of the song, until about halfway through, when the lights are turned on and the audience can see who is making the great music.

The chorus ends with a powerful mantra: “I just close my eyes and open my heart.”

This video directly deals with reframing disability; it can teach students to not be so quick to judge a book by its cover. Being judgmental of people with disabilities is not an act of inclusion and can be detrimental to the experience of people with disabilities on campus.

Aubrey Waetcher’s “Welcome to Wesley’s World” won this year’s annual Film Festival Contest. This local submission depicted the life of Wesley, a young boy living with autism.

The movie showed Wesley’s strengths and how, with his family’s help and his own determination, he was able to do things that were far beyond society’s expectations. These included running, baking, painting and swinging in the hammock that his parents set up in his room.

“Right then, we knew not to focus on what Wesley can’t do but what Wesley can do,” said Robyn Stewart, Wesley’s stepmother.

The holistic approach that Washington University recommends for inclusive campuses is exemplified in Wesley’s family dynamic. This type of representation in Wesley’s family and families like his is so beneficial for people with disabilities, and students of CSU should take the initiative to learn more about disabilities so they can create a similar impact on campus.

Ad

Watching this video gives insight into how living with autism can mean struggles and success and how an inclusive environment makes all the difference. This is not a perspective that is commonly represented well on campus, as we do not give a lot of visibility to people with disabilities within our community.

“I just close my eyes and open my heart.” – Rudely Interrupted

One of the most humorous videos was called “Shit People Say to Autistic Service Dog Partners.”
The video showed Nathan Selove acting out the numerous things he has heard people say about his service dog.

This video is especially pertinent to CSU’s campus, since we have plenty of service dogs. My colleague, Shay Rego, wrote an article discussing the seriousness of service animals. Part of respecting service dogs on campus and in general is understanding what not to say to people with service dogs.

The Arc of Larimer County’s Film Festival had moments of seriousness, humor and clarity. Overall, the festival spreads awareness of the struggles that people with disabilities face. The list of some of the movies is below so you can relive the experience for yourself.

The Arc of Larimer County – Getting to Know Us My Little Brother from the Moon – Directed by Coline et Noe/Fred Philibert
100% Myself – Directed by Euan Ryan Prison Orphan – Calamari Productions
Being Seen – Directed by Paul Zehrer Old Road – by Brian David Collins, Produced By Sam Lawrence
Ian – Directed by Abel Goldbarb Willing to Work – Written and Directed by Wilbert Johnson
Connor Billington – Produced by Elfin Cahill  

 

If you want to learn more about people with disabilities or learn more about the resources that the Arc of Larimer County can provide, their film festival is a great resource, as well as their website. It’s important that the conversations around disabilities are not left to just those with them. We can all be better advocates when we utilize resources like this.

Rory Plunkett can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @jericho_wav