Women's Film Festival tackles disability issues

Posted

Saturday, March 22
BRATTLEBORO -- For disabled people, this isn't the easiest town to access.

"It's not what you would call a disability friendly town," said Candace Stoumen, the chair of Brattleboro's Americans With Disabilities Act Advisory Committee.

Alicia Dana, a 39-year-old Putney resident who has been in a wheelchair since she was 17, echoed this sentiment. She said just getting onto a curb when the snow piles up can be quite difficult for someone who can't walk.

"I found myself in downtown Brattleboro rolling down Main Street," she said.

Evan Mondon is 67, and has been on disability since 1992 because she has severe upper body limitations. Even in warm weather, she said, there aren't many downtown businesses that some disabled people can easily access.

"The library and the food co-op are just about the only places you can get into," she said, noting that many establishments have stairs and no ramps, or doors that are difficult for some people to open.

"Its the most pervasive and common form of discrimination," she said of public access for disabled people.

Today, the Women's Film Festival will be tackling some of the issues and difficulties disabled people face when it presents three movies about women dealing with disabilities, followed by a special panel discussion.

The movies, shown at the New England Youth Theater, begin at 1 p.m., and the panel discussion follows at 2:30. Stoumen, Dana and Mondon will be joined on the panel by two other women who either work with disabled people or live with a disability of their own.

Missy Boothroyd is deaf, and also works as a peer advocate for deaf people at the Vermont Center for Independent Living, an advocacy organization for people with disabilities; Marilyn Mahusky, an attorney with the Disability Law Project and the Mental Health Law Project.

"It's about how can we educate and understand our friends and neighbors," Mondon said about today's discussion. "I would like people to understand that, in the blink of an eye, they can become disabled too."

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Stoumen, who also works at the Vermont Center for Independent Living, said Windham County closely mirrors the rest of the country in that one in every five people suffer from some form of disabling condition.

"It can be born or acquired," she said. "It can be long term or short term."

However a disability is acquired, Dana said people who have them don't want to be called handicapped. After all, she doesn't consider herself handicapped. She once handcycled from Seattle Washington to Vermont, a trip that would be daunting for even the most able-bodied person.

"The connotation is just negative," she said of calling someone handicapped. "Disabled connoted differently 'abled,' rather than just 'un-abled.'"

You can reach Robert Plain at rplain@reformer.com or 802-254-2311 ext. 271.

***

Today at the New England Youth Theater, the Women's Independent Film Festival presents three movies about women dealing with disabilites.

* "Inside Out," an eight-minute film about a women with Bells Palsy, shows the personal growth that can occur when what the world sees is no longer what you are used to being.

* "Multiple" is about a European actor and director who hides from her colleagues the fact that she has multiple sclerosis. This movie tells how disabilities can affect a career.

* "Body and Soul" is the story of two women with disabilities who decided to leave an institution and live together 35 years ago. The women become leaders in advocating for the rights of the disabled, earning them the Illinois Governor's Human Rights Award.

The movies will be shown at the New England Youth Theater on the corner of Flat and Elm streets in Brattleboro. For more information, call 802-246-NEYT (6398).

-- Women's Film Festival


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