Paddy Power “Away Day” ad

This ad for an Irish betting website features a wheelchair user utilizing a bridge plate to access a train on his way to an away game for his team. It depicts some of the common problems disabled travelers encounter, like the “wheelchair loos” being occupied by non-wheelchaired people and being at butt level in a crowd. But it’s all worth it for the “best seats in the house”. (Shut up Paddy Power, don’t tell them our secret!)

Vera Drake

Disability only appears as a subplot in Vera Drake, but is illustrative of the larger social problems in the austerity of postwar Britain. The movie opens on a scene of middle-aged Vera trudging up the stairs to visit a wheelchair-using neighbor, George Wells, fluffing up his pillows and making him a cup of tea. George appears quite depressed and uncommunicative, barely making eye contact. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that he’s depressed because he’s trapped in a walk-up apartment long before anyone thought of making buildings wheelchair accessible, but George’s problems run even deeper than that.

These were the days before any kind of home help was available in Britain. While Vera’s friendly visits are no doubt much appreciated, they do little to alleviate the real issues. Who helps George get bathed, dressed, and seated in his wheelchair each morning? His wife. Who went out to earn a living in the days when there were few careers available to homebound disabled men? His wife. Who helps George in the inaccessible bathroom after that mid-day tea has passed through his kidneys? His wife. When ignorant politicians say they want disabled people to be cared for by volunteers, what they really mean is the wife, or the mother, or maybe the daughter or the sister: the uncompensated labor of women. The kind of caring a neighborly volunteer does is the fluffing up of pillows and the making of tea.

Indeed, when we meet his wife later in the movie, she’s so depressed that she doesn’t want to get out of bed. Vera tries to empathize, as she’s also taking care of her bedridden elderly mother, but even her daily encouragement and assistance must be eventually withdrawn when she goes to prison. The movie doesn’t show what happens to the Wells family after that, but without paid caregivers or a social safety net, we can make an educated guess. Theirs is a situation ripe for abuse, neglect, abandonment, poverty, depression and other mental illnesses.

On the Way to School (Sur le chemin de l’école)

The French documentary “On the Way to School” profiles four children making their way to school in the developing world. One, 13 year old Samuel from India, is pushed and pulled 2.4 miles to school and home again by his two younger brothers in a makeshift wheelchair. The wheelchair consists of little more than a plastic lawn chair attached to a couple of bicycle wheels, but the ubiquity of the parts that compromise it mean the trio can get it fixed at a local repair place when the tire inevitably gets a flat… and the benefits of having a cheap plastic seat without upholstery become apparent when Samuel’s brothers decide to try pushing him through a couple of streams.

Samuel’s school does have a concrete ramp in front, and he’s met at the entrance to his classroom by a team of larger boys who carry him the rest of the way in. In an interview, Samuel tells of how fortunate he is go to school, when many of his peers don’t get the opportunity. He wants to become a doctor to help kids like him walk someday.

The supporting web site for the film explains that Samuel was premature when he was born, so his disabilities are likely due to cerebral palsy. They further reveal that Samuel is the only one in his family who can read, and that the arduous journey to school we see was due to the local village school being unable or unwilling to accommodate Samuel.

The Way(s) to School Foundation has been collecting donations to ensure that all four kids profiled can continue their schooling with scholarships, and have already bought Samuel a new wheelchair. Considering the rough terrain he has to cross every day, we at Disability Movies hope it’s a very rugged one suited for his environment.

Beware the Chair

This ad campaign uses a radio controlled wheelchair to chase down unsuspecting passers-by and frighten them into osteoporosis awareness. The wheelchair is depicted as a predatory animal, lying in wait to claim another victim. The music is equally as suspenseful, adding tension to the scene. At the end, stark large letters intone “Stand up for osteoporosis. Before you can’t.”

The message is clear: hate and fear the wheelchair! Instead of a useful tool for getting around, the eventual use of a wheelchair must be avoided at all costs. The harassed people exclaim that they “want no part of it”, and the stigma against wheelchair use is unnecessarily and irresponsibly perpetuated.

Update: after an outcry by wheelchair users, the video has been made private on YouTube. The organizers removed it from the Beware the Chair website, and posted the following apology:

Osteoporosis is a huge problem in this country, and the world. When we set out to raise awareness about the risks, our intention was to spark interest and dialogue so people would take measures to protect their bones. Beware the Chair was built to try and help in some small way.

However, we unintentionally offended a community of people in the process, and for that we are deeply apologetic. We want to let everyone know that you have been heard, and that each and every comment was taken seriously.

The campaign is ending as of today.

The original intent was to prevent something preventable: osteoporosis claims the independence, and sometimes the lives, of thousands of people around the world.

So now we respectfully ask for your help.

Share the facts. Encourage someone you love to ask their doctor or get a bone scan. Visit one of the many organizations out there with vital resources. And spread the word.

Because even as this campaign ends, its mission does not.

Oz, the Great and Powerful

Set 20 years before the events in the famed Wizard of Oz, Oz the Great and Powerful depicts the humble origins of the Wizard as a 1905 circus magician. After successfully performing a levitation illusion on stage, the unsophisticated audience of rubes is convinced that his powers are real, and a little girl in a wheelchair implores him to “make me walk!”. Her family offers him all their money to cure her, but he knows he cannot.

After escaping an angry mob in a hot air balloon and winding up in Oz, Oscar soon comes across a weeping China Doll with broken legs. Her small crockery village has been trampled and reduced to dust, but Oscar has the power to fix her legs with a handy tube of glue. She sees this as nothing short of miraculous, and believes he’s truly a great wizard.

A movie about Oz would not be complete without the famous Munchkins, one of the peoples under the protection of Glinda the Good Witch. They sing and dance to welcome Oscar, as in the original Wizard of Oz, but this time are also shown in more quotidian capacities such as tailors and tinkers.


It’s hard to determine if people with disabilities are being mocked in Pumpkin, or if it’s a subtle satire of image-obsessed Los Angeles sorority girls instead. Neither are portrayed in an entirely positive light.

The action centers around the so-called Challenged Games, in preparation for which the sorority girls volunteer to provide one-on-one coaching. Their primary motivation is winning a Sorority of the Year contest, and being seen associating with the disabled will cast them in a positive light in the eyes of the judges. A couple of the girls oppose the idea, on the grounds that the social contact with presumably normal people will only serve to make the “challenged athletes” self-conscious about their disabilities. And indeed the two naysayers completely botch their introductions to the athletes they’re paired with: one girl flees in terror, and the other, Carolyn, begins screaming uncontrollably when she thinks her charge, Pumpkin, is looking at her funny.

(Pumpkin is neither rotund nor orange, it’s his overbearing mother’s infantilizing nickname for him. It’s unclear how much he’s actually affected by his developmental disabilities; certainly he has trouble with balance and coordination, and his speech is affected, but Pumpkin shows he has the cognitive capacity to carry on conversations, make decisions, etc.)

Yes, Carolyn’s worst fears have come true. Pumpkin has fallen in love with her, and to prove it his disability starts magically going away! Love has done what modern medicine and years of school-based physical therapy could not! The brief glimpse of a pretty blonde girl running away screaming is enough to motivate our hero into standing and walking! (Albeit with comical windmilling attempts to balance himself.) Because all he needed was willpower!

(Had I been physically capable of it, this is where the facepalming would have begun.)

At first Carolyn attempts to deflect Pumpkin’s attentions by setting him up on a double date, pairing him with a girl Carolyn considers desperate and undesirable. She runs away crying as well, offended, and Carolyn’s handsome able-bodied boyfriend Kent must drive her home. Pumpkin is forgotten, and left stranded on the beach alone. Carolyn remembers a few hours later, and returns to retrieve him. Instead of being angry at being treated so shabbily, Pumpkin gives Carolyn a simple drawing of herself, and Carolyn realizes that she’s fascinated with Pumpkin as well. Despite the fact that Pumpkin has barely said three words to her, Carolyn decides that his suffering has made his soul beautiful and pure.

Her sorority is thoroughly upset by her newfound interest in Pumpkin, deeming it unhealthy and unnatural. Associating with a developmentally disabled person is socially acceptable within the context of providing charity or assistance, but an equitable romantic relationship is unthinkable. When the pair decide to sleep together, each family accuses the other of rape. Once word gets out about this, Carolyn is kicked out of her sorority and school, and makes a suicide attempt.

The sorority still thinks their association with the disabled athletes could win them the prize, though, and engineers Carolyn’s return at the sorority ball so she can be seen repudiating her relationship with Pumpkin and dancing with able-bodied Kent instead. Pumpkin and a couple of his disabled friends decide to crash the party, resulting in a fistfight in which he (looking rather more coordinated than ever) manages to defeat Kent. It isn’t that Pumpkin is suddenly stronger or lands more blows than Kent, it’s the humiliation of being bested by a disabled person that Kent can’t handle.

A distraught Kent drives his car off a cliff, becoming physically disabled himself. He’s released from the hospital in record time, with a shiny new motorized wheelchair which his fraternity brothers have to push for some reason. He’s spending all his time in a darkened room, blaming Carolyn for his problems, when Pumpkin visits him at home and encourages him to return to public life. Kent does by becoming the new coach of Pumpkin’s team and giving an inspirational speech at the Challenged Games. Though he’s only recently been disabled and hasn’t even figured out how to work his motorized chair, with his movie-star good looks and muscular physique, Kent is already at the top of the pecking order of people with disabilities. Perhaps this is a glimpse of his future career as a motivational speaker.

In the final scene, the disabled athletes (with nary a genuine disabled actor in evidence) at the Challenged Games bumble about and fall all over themselves for no apparent reason, revealing the prejudices of the writers and filmmakers. It’s as if they believe “challenged athletes” aren’t capable of figuring out how to run. One final facepalm before Carolyn and Pumpkin walk off into the sunset together.

The Red Chapel

The Red Chapel is the name chosen by a Danish-Korean comedy sketch group that visits North Korea under the pretense of cultural exchange–ostensibly to perform comedic retellings of a Hans Christian Anderson story and an old Danish TV skit–but in truth to expose the stifled lives of the average North Korean, and find out more about what North Korea society does with their disabled citizenry. This is of particular interest to comedian Jacob Nossell, who has spastic paralysis. Many of the North Koreans they meet simply have no experience interacting with disabled adults.

Introduced to their handler, Mrs. Pak, she makes the common etiquette faux pas of not speaking directly to Jacob, but then bizarrely compounds her blunder by asking his companion if he is a baby. Once that awkward moment is out of the way, Mrs. Pak begins to smother Jacob with hugs and attention. Within hours, she declares that she thinks of Jacob as her son–no, more than a son!–and wistfully declares that she would like to live with him. People with disabilities are used to such hyperbolic declarations of love employed by new acquaintances to cover up their discomfort, but in this case there seems to be an element of truth to her tone; perhaps this is the only way Mrs. Pak can express a desire to leave. Indeed, as the film explains, Mrs. Pak and many North Koreans can only respond to questions about how they really feel about Kim Jong-Il by bursting into tears because they cannot trust their voices not to betray them.

Mads copes by pretending to join in the adoration of the Dear Leader but slyly insulting them, Simon by going with the flow. Only Jacob is unwilling to edit himself or participate in the groupthink exercises, causing panic among his cohorts when he flatly refuses to salute in the middle of a plaza filled with North Korean soldiers freshly whipped up into a patriotic fervor. Ironically, it’s his speech impediment that allows him to be the only one who can speak freely under surveillance, since the North Koreans can’t understand his speech anyway.

The punch line of their Danish skit, a joke about a spastic lady, keeps falling flat in their North Korean test audiences, and Jacob’s role in the show is systematically reduced to banging a drum and waving. The handlers don’t want him to speak or let on that he’s actually disabled; in their view, he should pretend to be an able-bodied person playing a handicapped person. (Similarly, the skits the duo had planned are axed in favor of standard issue propaganda.)

On their last day in North Korea, Jacob asks Mrs. Pak if he can meet “others like him”. She doesn’t know how to answer the question, so Jacob lets her off the hook by adding “next time I visit”. All smiles again.

The Fisher King

The Fisher King includes several brief depictions of physically disabled people, as well as Robin Williams in a not-exactly-clinically-accurate-but-lovable! depiction of a former professor suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (After witnessing the brutal murder of his wife at the hands of a mentally ill man, he spends some time catatonic “in a mental place on Staten Island” and emerges believing he’s a knight on a holy quest.) The gunman, clearly very lonely and seeking advice on talking to a woman, had been goaded into shooting up a popular bar by radio shock-jock protagonist Jack. When he learns of the effect of his bullying, Jack in turn becomes suicidally despondent and attempts to drown himself. In a twist of fate, Jack is introduced to Parry (who is accompanied by a couple other homeless men, one using crutches) and experiences the painful flutterings of an awakening of conscience.

Parry takes him back to the basement he’s been crashing in, where it becomes obvious that he not only has auditory hallucinations but tries to enlist Jack on his quest for the Holy Grail. Jack tries to give him a little money instead, but Parry’s kind “landlord” (who wears an old-fashioned hearing aid in one ear) explains that Parry needs much more than a few dollars to regain what he had lost. Perry tells Jack the story of the Fisher King and the festering wound he received, mirroring the wounds they’ve received in life (and manifest in Jack’s bandaged hand).

Both a motorized wheelchair user and a little person wearing a business suit are milling about in the background when Parry takes Jack to see Lydia, the woman he admires from afar. Parry then shows Jack the “castle” of wealthy philanthropist Landon Carmichael, from whom Parry intends to steal the Grail. (In this high-rent district, there’s another person in a wheelchair, this time an elderly lady being pushed by a uniformed attendant.)

Jack balks at the dangerous plan and suddenly tries to confront Parry with the reality of his identity. Parry is quickly overwhelmed and has a screaming fit, running away to a nearby park where he snaps out of it to come to the aid of an injured and incoherent gay man. Jack and Parry take “Venice” to a crowded, dirty public hospital for medical attention, and Jack’s introduction to the disparities in health care between the rich and the poor.

Jack’s education continues with a trip to Grand Central, where he strikes up a conversation with a disabled veteran begging for spare change. Someone tosses a coin on the floor where the wheelchair-using man can’t reach to pick it up.

“He didn’t even look at you.”
“Well, he’s paying so he don’t have to look.”
“Say, guy goes to work every day eight hours a day, seven days a week. He starts questioning the very fabric of his existence. Then one day about quitting time the boss calls him into the office and says, “Hey Bob, why don’t you come on in here and kiss my ass for me, will you?”
“Well,” he says, “hell with it. I don’t care what happens. I just want to see the expression on his face as I jam this pair of scissors into his arm.”
Then he thinks of me. He says “Wait a minute. I got both my arms, I got both my legs. At least I’m not begging for a living.” Sure enough, Bob’s going to put those scissors down and pucker right up. See, I’m what you call a moral traffic light, really. I’m, like, saying “Red. Go no further. Boop… boop…”

A successful first date with Lydia sets up an internal conflict for Parry, and he has a showdown with The Red Knight, the symbol of his trauma. He becomes stupefied with fear, and is taken back to a mental hospital. Lydia oversees his care, providing cutesy sheets and demanding he be clad in pajamas instead of a hospital gown, but this isn’t enough to wake the prince. Jack presents the Grail and Parry magically wakes up, restored to sanity (and with no side effects from the psychoactive drugs he was probably pumped full of) and ready to lead a chorus of “the bungled and the botched” in song.

Still Mine

Based on a true story, Still Mine is unusual not for its portrayal of an octogenarian with worsening dementia, but for the focus on her changing housing needs, and her equally elderly husband’s efforts to build her an accessible home. Irene Morrison has been having trouble getting around, and after a fall her husband Craig moves her bed into the living room and installs a Port-a-Potty on the front porch so she won’t have to climb the stairs again. Their children are dismayed at their non-standard living arrangements, though, and vaguely hint that Something Must Be Done About Mom. Craig decides to start building a smaller, one level house with a wheelchair ramp to prepare for the day they can no longer manage in the house he built for them at the beginning of their marriage, and begins construction with timber he’s cut down himself. His kids urge him to get all the necessary permits, though, and thus begins a legal battle spurred on by the urgency of having the house ready by the time Irene recovers from a broken hip.

Ironically, it’s the same sense of rugged independence that keeps most people from buying visitable houses or making renovations for wheelchair access when they’re relatively young; many buy houses with stairs to the entrance, not considering whether they’ll be able to climb them in 30 years. And the need for a wheelchair is often a sudden and unexpected one, requiring extensive renovations just as the medical bills are arriving. Daunted, many feel they have no choice but to move to a nursing home, though the cost of renovations or relocation and personal assistance services is usually cheaper in the long run then extended nursing home care.


The subtleties of Cuerdas are largely lost on me as I don’t speak Spanish, but it’s easy to follow the basic storyline of this animated short film.

Short Australian film The Gift is a big hit worldwide

From The Herald-Sun (Australia):

Short Australian film The Gift is a big hit worldwide

Staff Writer
The Daily Telegraph
June 28, 2013 12:00AM

THE Gift is the little Aussie film that could.

The little-known independent local movie starring Hugo Weaving’s son, Harry Greenwood, is one of the hottest tickets on the international short-film circuit.

And it was made on a budget of less than $10,000, pretty much what we’d expect the cast and crew of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby to spend on lunch.

Created by brother and sister team Lloyd and Spencer Harvey, who have already won several awards for previous works, The Gift also stars Anne Tenney (The Castle and Always Greener), Mark Lee (Gallipoli), Hannah Marshall and Ben Mingay.

It tells the story of an 18-year-old boy, played by Greenwood, who is confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy and wants to lose his virginity on his 18th birthday.

“The Gift was extremely well received at the recent Palm Springs Short Film Festival,” Lloyd Harvey says.

Other respected international film festivals have heard the word, including two in LA which have added The Gift to their schedules.

The Melbourne International Film Festival early next month will also screen the celebrated short.

None of this means that the brother and sister team are suddenly flush with funds. However, according to Lloyd, critical acclaim on the short-film festival circuit means that, when the couple attempt to get a feature film produced, they’ll be taken seriously.

The Gift is certainly about an extremely sensitive area and Greenwood worked closely with the sex workers’ association The Scarlet Alliance and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance to ensure it sent the right message.

Invitation To Dance

from RocketHub:
05/08/13: Trailer with audio descriptions is here:
Welcome! We are excited to tell you about our documentary film and outreach project, INVITATION TO DANCE. We have worked longer and harder than we ever imagined, fueled by muenster cheese sandwiches and enthusiastic response from friends, film industry professionals, and activists, academics and artists from across the disability community. We’d be delighted to have you on board! Thank you.

Simi Linton and Christian von Tippelskirch


In 1971, Simi Linton was injured while hitchhiking to Washington to protest the war in Vietnam. Suddenly a young disabled college student, she confronted insidious forms of discrimination she couldn’t have imagined before. The film follows her story as, over time, she joins forces with a vibrant disability community and realizes that love, dance and activism can once again be central to her life. Simi introduces a lusty, fun-loving, cadre of activists who defy every conceivable disability stereotype. Their lives are filled with passion, struggle and humor. Their antic and defiant demonstrations for equity range from crawling up the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building by day to irreverent partying in a hotel ballroom by night. Ultimately, INVITATION TO DANCE is a never before told coming out story of disabled people claiming their rights to “equality, justice, and a place on the dance floor!”


For too long, disabled people have lived in the shadows – denied basic rights and freedoms. While there have been significant legal advances, profound discrimination and alienation continue to mark the lives of most disabled people. Change is on the horizon. Complacency isn’t an option. Our answer? A dynamic and innovative outreach project centered on INVITATION TO DANCE. The time is ripe to present a film that invites people into this world; that charts a way forward. There are role models galore – if we follow their lead, integration is inevitable.

We have created an engaging and beautiful film that speaks to a broad range of people. INVITATION TO DANCE opens doors and minds, sparks dialogue, and generates community involvement.


Invitation to Dance is in the final stages of post-production. We are preparing to bring it to film festivals, broadcasters, colleges and universities, cultural centers, community organizations, veterans centers and more. In order to do this, we need to raise $30,000 for:

– Sound edit and final sound mix
– Color correction
– Rights to archival footage
– Full access features, including audio description and captioning
– Producing final DVD

We’ve taken the project as far as we can on our own, and now we need YOU. Please help us reach (and even surpass!) our goal of $30,000 by making a contribution. Please spread the word – take a stand with us for equality, justice, and a place on the dance floor! Together, we can do this. Use your personal networks: send word out to your circles, engage people. Let them know why the message of INVITATION TO DANCE is timely, urgent and important.

Post it, tweet it, like it, caffeinate it!

Thank you,
Simi and Christian

Invitation to Dance is a sponsored project of Artspire, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the purposes of Invitation to Dance must be made payable to Artspire and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.