The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced last week that “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution” had been nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. The film, released by Netflix in March 2020, and shown by the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, portrays a group of young people at a summer camp who helped spark the disability rights movement in the United States. This movement led to the adoption of major disability rights policies that paved the way for the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), groundbreaking legislation that influenced the disability rights movement worldwide. The film has had a huge impact in raising awareness about inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas of society, including the arts.
“Crip Camp” director and producer Jim Lebrecht uses a wheelchair. He and other wheelchair users should be able to experience that unique moment of surprise and thrill of taking the stage to receive an Oscar, just as other stars do. At the time of this publication, an Academy Award official said they are prioritizing gathering information about “specific needs” of Oscar nominees and their guests that they “need to be aware of and respond to,” but they could not yet specify what measures they would be taking to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities.
Physical accessibility for wheelchair users should include things like ramps and access to the same entrances that others use.
People with disabilities worldwide are often segregated in many ways, including in education, housing, and employment. Having a separate entrance for an Oscar winner, for instance, would risk reinforcing the wrong idea that people with disabilities aren’t entitled access on an equal basis with others.
The Academy has a huge opportunity to show its commitment to the inclusion revolution by installing a ramp to the stage when it presents its awards on April 25. Doing so is crucial to reinforce the powerful messages of “Crip Camp,” whether the film wins an Oscar or not.