Understanding Our Differences brings disability awareness to Newton community

Understanding+Our+Differences+brings+disability+awareness+to+Newton+community

Arjun Shatkin

Understanding Our Differences worked to bring awareness about disabilities in a seminar aimed at Newton community members who gathered in the Druker Auditorium at the Newton Free Public Library Tuesday, Feb. 4. The presentation was organized with help from Understanding Our Differences intern Nathan Persampieri ‘19.

The seminar included a screening of “Intelligent Lives,” a documentary that shows the lives of three intellectually disabled people. It was followed by an open Q&A session with Persampieri.

“This movie really speaks to me,” said Persampieri. “A lot of people were inspired and it was thought-provoking.” He added that he hoped people “would be able to see this movie and then go out in their community and try to make changes based on what they saw here,” and that the film opens up “the opportunity for discussion for intellectual disabilities.”

The film presents three people who are living with intellectual disabilities. It gives the viewer a look at their daily lives, the struggles they face, and their accomplishments. The documentary also dove into the history of disabled people in America.

“There are ways to build an inclusive community that encourages people and finds their strengths and helps them with their challenges and incorporates them into everyday life with everyone else,” said Jenni Acosta, the program director for Understanding Our Differences. “People don’t need to be put off to the side.”

The Q&A discussed the issues of inclusion that disabled people face and how the Newton community can contribute to change. The audience also raised the issue of standardized testing being unhealthy and unfair for disabled people, along with their opportunities for higher education being slimmer.

“Nathan and I have had a lot of discussions about how we can raise awareness in the community about disabilities,” said Acosta. “We thought it would be a good way to raise the profile of disability awareness.”