Tag Archives: States of Grace

Top Ten Tips for Teaching Disability Themes in the Classroom

By Nomy Lamm

October is Disability Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to make sure that Disability Studies, Art, Culture and Politics are

Mimi and Dona - Square
Mimi and Dona

integrated into any topic you are teaching. Whether you’re teaching Social Work, Medicine, Gender Studies, Black History, Performance Studies, or Early Childhood Development, examining and learning from a disabled experience will provide a fuller and deeper understanding of the course materials for your students. Below are some guidelines to help integrate the perspectives of people with disabilities into your classroom.

 

  1. DON’T perpetuate the myth of the “tragic cripple.” You know, the story where someone is disabled and miserable, and everything they do is so hard, and everyone around them is brought down by their struggle, and then maybe they almost achieve happiness but then… they die. Learn to identify this trope so you can call it out when you see it.  DO offer stories and examples of people with
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    The Key of G

    disabilities who are living complex, full lives, who are in reciprocal relationships, who make choices and have life journeys. Mimi and Dona, one of New Day’s recent acquisitions, documents the symbiotic relationship between an aging mother and her disabled daughter, offering a useful jumping off point for analyzing dynamics of inter/dependence. The Key of G is another film that shows a disabled person growing and changing in the context of a community who loves them.                                 

  2. DON’T teach our stories solely through the lens of the medical establishment, or assume that all people with disabilities want a cure. DO examine complexities of access to health care,
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    Fixed

    allocation of resources, and how these privileges break down along race/class/age/gender lines. Fixed is a useful documentary for examining the politics of “human enhancement” and the impetus toward “fixing” people’s bodies rather than taking care of people’s basic needs.

  3. DON’T succumb to the false-positive messaging of ‘inspiration porn’ – you know, the story about the amazing disabled person who, despite all their hardship
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    Who Am I to Stop It

    s is still able to rise above and overcome their circumstances, inspiring able-bodied people to say, “If they can do it, what’s my excuse?” This narrative centers the able-bodied experience and perpetuates competitive, ableist constructions of “success” and “failure.” DO share materials created by people with disabilities where we frame our own experiences. Who Am I to Stop It is a compelling documentary about three artists with traumatic brain injuries, made by a filmmaker with disabilities from brain injury.

    Michael
    Michael and His Dragon
  4. DON’T hold up one type of disability as the “true” disability.  Disability is an intentionally broad category that includes people with mobility impairments, people who belong to sensory minorities, people with psychiatric disabilities, chronic illnesses, learning disabilities, cognitive challenges, chronic pain, and more. DO
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    When I Came Home

    encourage awareness of the ways our society disables us by stigmatizing the ways we show up in the world. Michael and His Dragon and When I Came Home both follow soldiers who return from Iraq with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Twitch and Shout is about people with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological condition that is often misunderstood.

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    Twitch and Shout
  5. DON’T perpetuate unconscious use of ableist language that frames disability as bad.  This includes words like “crazy” when you mean abusive, “lame” when you mean uncool, or “blind” when you mean ignorant, or even words like “weak” or “stupid” that imply ableist hierarchies. DO examine the use of identity labels, including “disability” itself – how are these words used by people who identify with them? Identify nuances of language that differentiate between what we want others to call us, and what we call ourselves. In
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    Mind Game

    Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw, the most powerful opportunities for healing come when Chamique is able to connect with others who share similar circumstances, to release the shame and isolation associated with words like “crazy.”

  6. DON’T feed into stereotypes of disabled people as sexless and childlike. People with disabilities have desires, are desired by other people, enjoy sex (solo, partnered, in groups…), have relationships, and experience all the ups and downs and ins and outs that come with being an embodied being. People with disabilities are also at high risk of sexual assault, so sex education is crucial to understanding what is happening and knowing that we have a choice. DO promote work by disabled people that explores sexuality. Sins Invalid follows the eponymous Disability Justice performance project and movement-building organization that creates work around disability and sexuality, centralizing artists of col
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    Makind Noise in Silence

    or and queer and gender-variant artists with disabilities.

  7. DON’T isolate disability from other identities, or play ableism against other forms of oppression. There are disabled people in every demographic, so any struggle for justice and liberation also affects people with disabilities.  DO share examples of people navigating simultaneous experiences of racism, ableism, sexism, and more. Making Noise in Silence looks at intersections of deafness, youth, immigration, and race in the lives of two young deaf Korean students. E Haku Inoa: To Weave a Name
    E Haku Inoa To Weave A Name square still
    E Haku Inoa

    looks at the impact of colonization on a mother’s mental health.

  8. DON’T assume that people with disabilities are always in the position of receiving but not giving. Many of us who are disabled are also caregivers, therapists, parents, medical professionals, teachers, and healers. DO look at the ways our lives change over time and how the amount and type of care we receive and offer fluctuates at different moments. States of Grace follows the story
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    States of Grace

    of Dr. Grace Dammann, a pioneering AIDS specialist whose near-fatal car accident changes her perception of self and relationship to her body and family.

  9. DON’T assume that nobody in the classroom has the disability you’re discussing. Disabled people are not a separate group – “they” are part of the “we” that you’re speaking to. DO model accessibility in the classroom by providing opportunities for access needs to be identified, including bio breaks, seating options, lighting changes, large print, captions, audio description, scent-free space, or whatever the individuals in your class might need in order to participate. Most New Day Films are closed captioned, and a number of them including Fixed, Sins Invalid, The Key of G, and Who Am I to Stop It are audio described fo
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    Read Me Differently

    r blind audiences. For more thoughts about classroom accessibility issues, Read Me Differently is a powerful New Day film about a young woman’s learning differences.

  10. DON’T imagine that you will always be able-bodied!  Everybody experiences some type of disability in their life, whether it’s a temporary injury or surgery, a chronic illness, an accident, or just getting old and losing abilities over time. DO co-create a world that recognizes and respects the many ways we live in our minds and bodies.  

Explore New Day’s rich collection of films on Disability here.  

Commemorative Months in May

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Mind/Game

Mental Health Month raises awareness about mental illnesses, such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. New Day has a rich collection of films that lift the veil of silence over mental health issues. In Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw, the WNBA’s “female Michael Jordan” battles personal setbacks and stigma to become an outspoken mental health advocate. In Splitchildren weigh in on the emotional and psychological impact of living through their parents’ divorce. View New Day’s entire collection of mental health films here.

 

States of Grace
States of Grace

Older Americans Month is a time to celebrate the contributions of older adults to our nation. Several new additions to the New Day catalogue highlight such achievements. In Nine To Ninety, a family’s matriarch boldly leads her family in making difficult end-of-life decisions. In States of Grace, a celebrated doctor recovers from a devastating accident to create a holistic pain clinic. Tracing Roots follows the adventures of a native elder as she strives to find the origins of a curious relic in a retreating glacier. For more New Day films on aging and gerontology, click here.

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Top Spin

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month honors the culture, traditions, and history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Two new films in the New Day collection shed new perspective on the Asian-American experience. In Top Spin, Chinese-American ping-pong prodigies set their eyes on Olympic gold. In Making Noise in Silence, two high school students must balance being both Korean immigrants and members of the Deaf community. For more titles exploring Asian-American and Pacific Islander life, click here.

10 Ways New Day Films Changed People’s Lives in 2015

  1. The U.S. Department of Education hosted a special screening
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    I Learn America
    of Jean-Michel Dissard and Gitte Peng’s documentary I Learn America, during which Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared, “The students represented in the film need to be seen and supported as national assets in our schools.” This fall, the New York State Department of Education started using the film to train teachers to work with immigrant youth, and is now looking to make the project available to all of its middle and high schools.                                                    
  2. 2015 was the year TIME magazine declared the “Transgender Tipping Point,” and director Kimberly Reed was invited to make appearances on NBC, MSNBC, and ABC due to her autobiographical film Prodigal Sons (the first theatrically-released film by a trans director). The film has continued to move audiences, leading one transgender viewer to say, “Thank you for choosing to be so visible about yourself, your life, and your identities — your film certainly helped me in my process of transitioning,” and another to add, “Your film Prodigal Sons was instrumental in helping me by bringing understanding to my family. Thank you.”
  3. A researching team at Notre Dame University published a study
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    Fixed

    in the Journal of Responsible Innovation on how Regan Brashear’s documentary Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement shifted the viewpoints of scientists and bioengineering researchers on the ethical and social implications of their work. The research cited how the film’s varying perspectives of disability caused viewers to reconsider “profound personal and societal questions.”

  4. In New York’s Nassau County, over 50 matrimonial lawyers were
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    Split

    treated to a screening of Split, Ellen Bruno‘s short documentary on divorce, shot entirely from the perspective of children. The film received glowing reviews, with many lawyers declaring their intention to show the film to their clients and others making plans to share it more widely with child advocate attorneys and family court judges.

  5. Greta Schiller’s The Marion Lake Story inspired several community ecological restoration projects, including the clean-up of a phragmite-overgrown wetland in Groton, Connecticut, and the creation of a rain garden by students at Timber Creek High School, a service learning school in Orlando, Florida. Wendy Doromal, a supervising teacher at Timber Creek High, wrote that the “moving story exemplifies environmental stewardship and beautifully shows how a united effort can positively impact a community.
  6. Disruption, Paco de Onis and Pamela Yates’s feature documentary
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    Disruption

    about a cutting-edge group of Latin American social entrepreneurs, played widely across Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru as the centerpiece of the Disrupt Poverty Tour. Following screenings of the film in town centers, local youth and women were trained to design and administer digital surveys analyzing the level of women’s financial inclusion in their communities for eventual presentation to NGOs and governments.

  7. The West Virginia Foundation for Rape and Information Services began using Debra Chasnoff‘s Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up in statewide rape crisis centers to help with its mission to prevent and address sexual violence, stalking and dating violence. The film has been instrumental in helping to create understanding around how gender norm pressures can lead to unhealthy decision-making– a key to preventing future violence.
  8. After a screening of Tracing Roots: A Weaver’s Journey at Yale University, a student and member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma told filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein how important the film was to affirming her identity: “A lot of Yale students have never been around Native Americans before and it feels strange when I’m trying to explain where I come from.”
  9. Hospitals, medical schools, and rehab facilities across the country
    States of Grace
    States of Grace

    held screenings of States of Grace. After a screening at the Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, the Senior Vice-President & Chief Nursing Officer wrote to filmmakers Mark Lipman and Helen Cohen, “The response for days following your presentation was nothing short of overwhelming…Many people said that they felt it could make a difference in the way we care for patients.”  Others added: “You have nourished my spirit as a bedside nurse” and “Reminds us all why we became health care professionals.”

  10. Ellen Brodsky traveled to Seoul, South Korea, with The Year We Thought About Love, her award-winning film about a LGBTQ youth theater troupe. After the screening, a young woman shyly raised her hand and said, “I have two friends who came out to me. After watching your film, I think I can now be a better friend. Thank you.