One billion people on this planet have a disability. Yes, you read that right. That is roughly 15% of the population.
When was the last time you watched a movie or a TV show that included a real disabled actor? It’s probably hard to say. Many networks and streaming companies are beginning to branch out and create inclusive shows and movies. Oftentimes, a disabled character is played by an able-bodied person. That takes away from the purpose of including a disabled character.
On March 25, 2020, Netflix released a film called “Crip Camp.” Directed by James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham, it’s a documentary that follows disability rights activists. These activists met at a camp for disabled people in the 1960s-70s. It was called Camp Jened. Back then, disabled people couldn’t do much because there were no laws in place for equal access in America. So, the campers and counselors from Camp Jened, including LeBrecht, came together to start a revolution.
One woman, Judith (Judy) Heumann, started a movement to fight for change. She was diagnosed with polio at a young age, and she has used a wheelchair to get around ever since. She lived in the New York City area, and transportation was inaccessible. That needed to change. She created “Disabled in Action,” a civil rights organization committed to ending discrimination against people with disabilities. “Crip Camp” follows Judy and the people she met at Camp Jened. More specifically, it shows the journey to obtaining legislation for a more accessible America. It’s a must-see film.
On March 15, 2021, the official Instagram page for the film announced that it was nominated for an Oscar. This is a tremendous accomplishment for the disabled community. It’s a film created by disabled people, about a disability revolution. It is nominated for “Best Documentary Feature.” Barack and Michelle Obama are executive producers of the film.
As a disabled woman, I have been recommending this film to everyone. This taught me about the history of people just like me. I was embarrassed that I didn’t know this information because it is so relevant to my life. Then, I realized, it was partially a failure of the American education system. We learn about the same group of men from the 1700s in every American history class. This group of activists caused a change in the entire infrastructure of America. How had I never heard of them?
There are still stigmas surrounding the disabled community, but this film does a brilliant job of starting the conversation to dismantle those stigmas. In one part of the film, the campers and counselors were discussing school. Many of them couldn’t attend school because it wasn’t accessible. Almost all of the people who could attend school were put in a special education room, regardless of their academic abilities. Worst of all, this room was usually secluded in a basement. The faculty members did this because they didn’t want to make the able-bodied children uncomfortable. It’s time to have a conversation so the stigmas and uncomfortableness can end. “Crip Camp” deserves an Oscar for facilitating this conversation.
If you’re looking to watch some movies before the Oscars on April 25, I would recommend that you add “Crip Camp” to your list. It is running against some big-name features in its category. A win would be hard to secure against such big name films, but nothing is impossible. A nomination alone shows the incredible power of this film.