I directed Among the Giants during my senior year of high school. From the beginning, I wanted to create a piece which told an important story with heart, and which could simultaneously be used as a fundraising, promotional, and teaching tool. Now, nearly five years later, the film has gone on to have a life of its own both here in the United States and around the world. And while I am humbled by its role in the larger discourse on "disability", I am also sadly aware that little has changed in the past five years.
While practical efforts in voicing and then meeting demand continue, there are fundamental obstacles which I believe hinder most constructive work in the broader realm of disability and accessibility. One such hinderance is the problem with the term "disability", which is often pigeonholed and stigmatized. At first glance, individuals with obvious and perhaps severe physical disabilities are labeled "disabled", and thus seen as "other" and "different" than everyone else. This perspective is destructive and only strengthens tensions and apparent divides between people of all kinds. The reality, which is voiced near the end of the film, is that we all have disabilities. This becomes clear if we approach the concept of disability from a different, perhaps broader perspective. If we look at disability being simply that which prevents anyone from doing what they want or need to do, then it can be applied universally.
Change begins with a shift in perspective. When minds open and broaden, the possibilities for concrete and effective action grow and strengthen. I encourage anyone who watches Among the Giants to think seriously about their own perspectives on the world: What assumptions are being made? And what is being un-seen, un-heard, and mis-understood? At the heart of these questions, and at the heart of Adaptive Design, is simply the yearning for a more unified and loving world. Whether this begins with a shift in understanding one's own pre-conceived notions, or an hour spent creating a cardboard seat insert for a child, the important thing is that we are always taking a step in the right direction.
November 11, 2013