ReelAbilities event promotes inclusion

Do You Dream in Color? This was the first of two movies screened during Special Olympics of Notre Dame’s ReelAbilities Film Festival held on September 20. The event was designed to highlight the exceptional abilities of people with disabilities and did so through two documentaries, Do you Dream in Color? and Wampler’s Ascent. The two films introduced those in attendance to a number of men and women and their hopes, dreams, and challenges.

What was the purpose of such an event? To highlight these people as people with ability, not people with disability.

This point was powerfully delivered through the stories of Steve Wampler, who dreamed of climbing El Capitan Mountain in Yosemite National Park, and Connor, a teenage boy who dreamed of being a sponsored skater. Wampler, however, has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair; Connor is blind. To many, it would seem that their dreams would be impossible to reach.

Yet, Do You Dream in Color? began with footage of Connor skating, with a voice-over of him describing how he could use his hearing and the placement of his feet to do tricks and land safely. His story followed his many hard-worked hours to put together a 3-minute long video of new tricks in an application for sponsorship.

When asked why it was so important to him that he be sponsored, Connor replied, “A lot of people don’t believe my skating skills.” Sponsorship was his way of gaining credibility that he was a good skater. This proof, however, was only needed for those making presuppositions; it was not needed by anyone who had seen him skate.

Connor was not the only person to demonstrate his authentic talent; Steve Wampler demonstrated his climbing skills. Through the aid of two experienced climbers and a crank system which Wampler could use to pull himself up four to six inches at a time, the man became the first person with cerebral palsy to scale El Capitan, which is the height of two Empire State Buildings.

Wampler, who had never before climbed and expressed in Wampler’s Ascent that he had no desire to do so again, made his ascent for three main reasons: first, to demonstrate to the world that people with disabilities have a strong, profound ability to accomplish great things. The second was to encourage other people with disabilities to strive after their dreams, no matter how impossible they may seem. The third, and most important to Wampler, was to raise money for his summer camp for people with disabilities. It was at camp as a child that Wampler first learned that his wheelchair was not a confinement, but rather a means to experience the great beauty of nature. As an adult, he owns and operates Camp Wamp to offer other children the same opportunity.

The films, though inspiring, were not without moments depicting struggle. Sarah, a 16-year-old student, demonstrated the great pain that a person’s doubt can cause another. Her dream was to study in Portugal, the ancestral home of her late mother. The program she applied to accepted her application to go to Spain, where students with disabilities had previously studied, but would not accept her application to Portugal, where no student with disabilities had previously gone through their program.

In an interview in the film, Sarah expressed that she would have been disappointed if she had been turned down to study in Portugal, but she was upset that she was not even allowed the opportunity to apply. By infringing upon her ability to simply apply, she expressed, those interacting with her placed before her an additional, unnecessary hurdle.

Following the films, a representative from the Logan Center spoke about ways in which Notre Dame, Holy Cross, and Saint Mary’s students can become involved in caring for and growing in relationship with people with disabilities. Nancy Turner, chair of the Department of Education at Saint Mary’s College, also highlighted her experiences teaching, specifically in special education. She described her special education instruction courses at Saint Mary’s as being a “win-win scenario” that is beneficial both for her students and for local people with disabilities.

Brendan Coyne is a junior studying economics and psychology and Evan Holguin is a junior studying the Program of Liberal Studies. Together, they form a dynamic duo the likes of which hasn’t been seen since cartoon Batman and Robin. Their superpowers include selling steak sandwiches on South Quad before home football games. To contact them, you may either shine a Knights of Columbus logo in the South Bend night sky or email or