Through My Eyes
The first thing people picture when thinking of a disability is someone in a wheelchair, a blind individual, amputations, or those with hearing loss. What most people don’t understand is that an estimated 96 percent of disabilities are invisible.
The disability community values diversity and inclusion and is committed to creating a welcoming environment for everyone. The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 prohibited discrimination against persons with disabilities and actions, both big and small, have made a tremendous impact on how persons with disabilities are treated and portrayed.
Sujit Singh, a creative media developer at the Center for Disabilities and Development at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, is helping make an impact in Iowa City, Johnson County, and beyond. He combined his love of movies and advocacy for persons with disabilities to create “Through My Eyes,” a simulation documentary.
Singh, who lives with cerebral palsy and complex partial epilepsy, said the idea came from his own personal experiences, including his time as a student at the University of Iowa.
“Throughout my life, I have experienced everything from sympathetic looks, to people telling me they know how it feels, to being bullied because I was different,” says Singh. “I realized I am capable of doing so much more than people gave me credit for. I also realized that unless people actually go through the challenges of being a person with a disability day in and day out you can’t understand what someone goes through.”
That’s the premise behind “Through My Eyes,” which follows four able-bodied individuals who volunteered to experience what it’s like to be a person with a disability. Two students at the University of Iowa, an ADA coordinator for the City of Iowa City, and an Iowa state representative were given the opportunity to choose from a list of disabilities. Participants experienced having a traumatic brain injury (TBI), through the art of dance; blindness, through exploring Iowa City’s downtown pedestrian mall; being a quadriplegic, by spending the day in a wheelchair and experiencing a few hours at a local salon getting a haircut; and a form of mutism by having lunch with someone else and speaking through cell phones.
Each able-bodied individual experiencing the simulation was under the guidance of someone currently living with the disability they chose. Participants were also interviewed prior to beginning the simulation to discover what they thought it would be like to have the disability they selected and after their experience to see if their preconceived notions changed.
“My ultimate wish for this documentary is to have the community recognize that people with disabilities are capable of doing everything that an abled-bodied individual can do,” says Singh. “Their disability doesn’t define them, but it makes them the person that they are.”