Tag Archives: Services for People with Disabilities

Documentary premiers portray stories of the disabilities community

During the next few weeks Twin Citians will enjoy an unprecedented opportunity to view and read about the lives and media triumphs of people with disabilities – and how their stories are told in the media.

The premiere of the documentary, The Real Story, produced by Access Press (http://www.accesspress.org), Minnesota’s disability community newspaper, and Verso Creative is set for October 28.  Funded in part by UCare, the documentary explores issues related to past and present media coverage of disability issues. 

Producers of The Real Story note that “the real story is how news coverage of disability issues has changed over the years.”   According to Access Press, “investigative journalists, particularly in Minnesota, have been instrumental in advancing the cause of equal rights for people with disabilities.  Starting in the 1940’s and culminating in the 1970’s journalists reported on the horrible conditions of state institutions for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  That reporting led to changes that improved the lives of many people.”

Still, “stories intended to be factual are often influenced by misconceptions that are ultimately harmful to people with disabilities.”  Though in some cases the mainstream media recognize their own biased reporting, in other cases, stereotypes persist.  According to Access Press “too often stories about disability are more inspirational than factual, or rely on old stereotypes…..People are either portrayed as heroic figures or as objects of pity. “   Star Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin has observed that “we used to do stories … that were more charity stories.”

One significant challenge reflected in The Real Story is the role of self-advocacy as an instrument of change.   “Being a self-advocate is a benchmark of the community now as people are encouraged to speak up for themselves.”

The Real Story premiers on Monday, October 26, 6:30 p.m. at the U of M Alumni Center; the documentary will be shown again on Monday, November 4, 4:00 p.m. at Coffman Union on the U of M campus.  Both events are sponsored by the U of M Disabled Students Cultural Center and Access Press.  The free and open screenings will include a panel discussion with newsmakers, scholars, activists – and refreshments.

A second opportunity to explore the lives and work of people with disabilities is set for early November.   ReelAbilities: New York Disabilities Film Festival (www.reelabilities.org) is hosted locally by Partnership Resources, Inc. a nonprofit that provides employment and arts experience opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.

This is the Minnesota premiere of  “the largest festival in the country dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different disabilities.”  The local festival, November 1-5, opens on Friday, November 1, with a noontime program at MacPhail Center for Music and a reception that evening at Pracna on Main.

Venues for the showings of the nine featured films include MacPhail Center for Music, the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre and the St. Paul Jewish Community Center.  All venues are fully accessible.  Post-screening discussions and other programs “bring together the community to explore, discuss, embrace, and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience.”  There’s a complete schedule of events and background online at http://Minneapolis.reelabilities.org/schedule.







Champions for Intellectual Access Through Technology Meet in the TC’s

Though I have always resisted the clarion call of the “Minnesota First in the Nation” chauvinists, I have long been inordinately proud of fact that the North Star State was, in truth, the home of the original Radio Talking Books program.  This powerful force for inclusion and access is renowned for having brought  information and ideas to visually and physically challenged Minnesotans for forty-one years!   If you haven’t checked the robust programming of RTB of late, take a minute, then tell a friend.   Users need a password to listen to the programs but you can get a good idea of the possibilities, including an ever-growing list of newspapers, on the website at www.mnssb.org/rtb.

For the latest, greatest, you’ll also want to check the annual conference of the International Association of Audio Information Services (http://www.iaais.org) which is meeting in the Twin Cities June 6-8, 2013.  Conference planners note that “this particular conference is happening in the state where radio information services began in 1969, with the Minnesota Radio Reading Service.  That set a radio signal that carried newspapers, magazines, and a few books for people with blindness and reading disabilities.  That has segued into services around the world that fit many different formats and forms of delivery, some still using the analog radio signal, but others on cable, SCA cable television, touch-tone telephone, and the internet.”

Today, programs that grew from the seed planted four decades ago cover read-aloud books, local news, PSA’s, ads, obits, events, magazines, advocacy information and more.   One essential resource on the IAAIS site is a list of Radio Reading Service websites internationally and in the U.S – there are well over fifty programs offering a wide range of services and technologies.  Not to play favorites, but to name just one, I was intrigued with the radio book group broadcast on Audio Journal, a service designed for the people of mid-Massachusetts but accessible online beyond those boundaries (http://www.audiojournal.net/)   I know that every one of the state services would offer a unique and irresistible glimpse of the possibilities planners will be discussing at the conference.

The urgency of attention to intellectual access is underscored today by the rapidly growing cohort of visually impaired elderly and, equally, by the injuries suffered by returning veterans.  Today over 21.5 million adults age 18 or older are blind or vision impaired.  There are many others who have barriers to independent reading such as a stroke, spinal cord injury or other physical impairment that is not strictly visual.

Promoters of the IAAIS conference advise that these national gatherings “have a very broad scope of educational presentations, from technology and government regulations, to volunteer management and fund-raising.”  As always, the real work – and benefit – of a global conference such is this is the chance for committed people who share a mission to join forces, share ideas, interests,  energy and a sense of connectedness.

The IAAIS conference is at the Sheraton Midtown Hotel.  Lots more information, including a full events list,  on the organization’s website,  call 1-866=837-4196,  email at info@iaais.oarg or write to the association at their home base , Box 847, Lawrence, KS