By Blake Webber
I’ve always been fascinated with history; I enjoy learning from the past as well as from other people’s experiences. Growing up with Cerebral Palsy, disability history has always held a particular importance to me. Ed Roberts, Justin Dart, and Judy Heumann have always been my role models. Naturally, when the opportunity to be a part of a film about disability history came up, I was thrilled. I learned that as part of this opportunity, we would be watching a documentary called Crip Camp. Crip Camp is about a summer camp for disabled youth that took place in 1971. Because of my interest in history, I couldn’t wait to see how the youth in the documentary viewed disability and ableism.
After we watched the documentary, our group had the opportunity to talk with Judy Heumann and Jim LeBrecht about our individual reactions to the footage we had just seen. It was a great experience to hear that other people had similar challenges, this provided a good sense of community. After watching the clip, I couldn’t help but think that it could have been filmed yesterday. The only major difference is that the documentary was shot in black and white rather than color. Despite the forty-six year difference, I really felt a connection to the youth that were portrayed in 1971. The issues they were expressing then of wanting to excel in life and be productive regardless of their disabilities are things that I deal with every day.
I view my disability as a positive and that, I believe, is the most important impact Judy has had on me. Ableism is viewing disability as a problem to be overcome. I believe that the key to defeating ableism is to instead view disability as a natural part of what it means to be human. Crip Camp has the potential to become much more than a film. I think it can help start a wider discussion that can change the view of disability into something to be celebrated rather than something to be overcome. Too many documentaries portray people with disabilities as heroic and inspiring rather than regular human beings. While every person has their own unique challenges, we as a community have far more to offer the world than just inspiration. Crip Camp shows the viewer how the disability community, and the individuals in it, view ourselves rather than how people without disabilities view us. I believe this is key for future generations, both disabled and otherwise, to help further inclusion and diversity rather than exclusion. At the end of the day, despite our many differences, we are all human beings; Crip Camp shows us the power of equality.
Blake enjoys history and technology because he believes both are very important to the disability community. When he is not volunteering or working on a project involving disability rights or assistive technology he plays play video games with friends.