By Danielle Kiefer
The President’s Commission on Disability Issues partnered with the National Federation of the Blind to host a screening of “Do You Dream in Color,” a documentary about blind students, followed by a panel Oct. 12.
The event is part of a series of month-long events for Disability Awareness Month, held every October by the President’s Commission on Disability Issues. The President’s Commission on Disability Issue (PCDI) advises University of Maryland President Wallace Loh on “issues of concern to people with disabilities,” according to its website.
“I think every time we have an event that includes a lot of people with disabilities, we just get to be more knowledgeable about how life is for them and the challenges they face and strategies they use to live life,” PCDI committee chair Ana Palla-Kane said.
The film, “Do You Dream in Color,” follows four blind high school students in California. The documentary explores the challenges each of the teens face as they try to accomplish various goals in their education and hobbies. “Do You Dream in Color” captures each of their journeys: Connor wants to be a sponsored skateboarder, Sarah is applying to spend her senior year abroad in another country, Nick strives to be a famous musician and Carina hopes to be the first in her family to graduate high school.
The PCDI found out about the film when they were contacted by Deborah Brown, president of the local Maryland NFB chapter. Brown asked if the film could be shown at the university, and the PCDI chairs decided to integrate it into Disability Awareness Month.
Following the film, four members of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) answered questions on a panel, moderated by Brown. The panel discussed challenges and successes they’ve faced being blind, as well as strategies they used to help overcome their disability.
The panel answered several questions regarding education, and members stressed the importance of advocating for themselves in order to get whatever help or materials they needed — for example, meeting with the teacher before class started to find out what books they will need to get in braille.
Panel members discussed that people who are totally blind can have advantages over people who are only partially blind because they are given more resources at a young age. Children who are totally blind are more likely to be taught braille and given intensive instruction when they are younger and it is easier to learn, they said.
“I hope that everyone will learn more about how real people who are blind live their lives and their hopes and their dreams, and the challenges that we face on a daily basis,” said Janice Toothman, a member of the NFB.
Palla-Kane said that the goal of the event was to get attendees more comfortable and more knowledgeable interacting with people with disabilities.
“[Students] can be more prepared for when they are actually in the workforce and with people of all different abilities,” Palla-Kane said. “I think that the more we have positive interactions with people that have disabilities, the more open we are to relate and talk with them.”