"Voices Beyond the Mirror" Offers Candid Stories from People with Disabilities
Last month, at its Making A Difference Annual Appreciation Ceremony in Atlanta, the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) premiered the centerpiece presentation in a series of video shorts developed to raise public awareness about issues pertaining to people with developmental disabilities. Subsequently, nine topic-specific stories have been released online to round out the project. All 10 videos in the "Voices Beyond the Mirror" series can be viewed at www.gcdd.org or its YouTube channel.
GCDD created the public awareness vehicle to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Developmental Disabilities Bill of Rights and Assistance Act of 1971 (the "DD Act") and also to respond to research that revealed a lack of awareness of and exposure to persons with disabilities and the daily challenges they face. The July 2010 Benchmark Study, commissioned by GCDD, showed that only one-third of Georgia's general public (33 percent) meet or interact with persons with developmental disabilities in their everyday life, even if they or a family member has a disability (44 percent). And most survey respondents did not have a clear understanding of what conditions could be classified as a developmental disability.
"Voices Beyond the Mirror," encourages a deep and thoughtful look into the everyday realities of living with different types of disabilities. The centerpiece video profiles three main stories:
Eleanor, a woman in her 70s who remembers life without accessibility, before the DD Act and the ADA, champions accessible homes and is the founder of Concrete Change;
Charlie, a high school junior who excels in school and is active with youth with and without disabilities in his community through groups like Partnerships for Success; and
Angad, a Middle School student who enjoys karate, wants to be a police officer and whose mother, Aartie, is a tireless disability advocate.
"By hearing the stories in this video, people can better understand the struggles and triumphs, and the hopes and dreams of people with disabilities and their families," said Eric E. Jacobson, GCDD Executive Director. "The core message is one of changing attitudes and expectations, and communities that welcome and accept people of all abilities. We view disability rights as a Civil Rights Movement and this video series is a valuable vehicle as we seek a more inclusive society."
The goal of "Voices Beyond the Mirror" is to raise awareness, spark conversations and spread knowledge in the broader community.
Included with the stories of Eleanor, Charlie and Angad, the full series features personal reflections:
Anisio Correia, an executive with the Center for the Visually Impaired, and his wife Agnes speak about public perceptions of blindness;
Ken Mitchell, a transportation advocate with disABILITY LINK envisions driving an accessible car for the visually impaired;
Juan Posada, a recent college graduate, tells stories of his early school experiences and the impact of technology for persons with deafness;
Tameeka Hunter, a Clayton State University administrator stresses the importance of, disability etiquette and People First Language;
Bernard Baker, an activist with People First of Georgia discusses his nine-year old daughter's advocacy to ensure places are physically accessible to her dad;
Carmine Vara, a young man who lives independently in the community and works at Stone Mountain State Park, shares how much he loves his job and his future aspirations;
Mia Nobbie, a young woman who lives independently in the community, expresses her desire to find work and use her skills;
Dr. Pat Nobbie, Mia's mom and Deputy Director of GCDD, imparts the value of employment, independent living in the community and her expectation that Mia and others will receive the necessary supports to be able to do what everybody else does;
Butch Miller, a Georgia state senator and Charlie's father, discusses disability legislation with emphasis on the spirit of the law, not just the letter;
Bethany Stevens, a lawyer, researcher and professor at Georgia State University explains "ableism" and sexual health; and
Pete Anziano, a peer counselor at The Shepherd Center and 10-year old Vincent reflect on their father-son relationship.
In an additional video short, Georgia Developmental Disabilities Network (DD Network) Federal Partners discuss the progress and remaining challenges in the disability rights movement and associated legislation.
DD Network representatives are:
Dr. Daniel Crimmins (Center for Leadership and Disability, Georgia State University),
Ruby Moore (The Georgia Advocacy Office),
Randy Grayson (GCDD Council member and Autism Society of Georgia),
Dr. Zolinda Stoneman (Institute for Human Development and Disability, University of Georgia),
Tom Seegmueller (GCDD Chair), and
Eric E. Jacobson (GCDD Executive Director).
All "Voices Beyond the Mirror" videos are open captioned for hearing impaired and vary in length from 2 minutes to 11 minutes.
GCDD developed and produced the series over six months in collaboration with Atlanta-based SplendidVid. The video, which is available to groups and organizations upon request, is offered as a public awareness tool and to support advocacy and policy-making efforts throughout Georgia and nationwide.
GCDD, a federally funded independent state agency, works to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play and worship in Georgia communities. A developmental disability is a chronic mental and/or physical disability that occurs before age 22 and is expected to last a lifetime. Visit www.gcdd.org for more information.