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Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
by Karen Pecota

Emmy Award winning filmmaker Nicole Newnham and film mixer and former camper Jim Le Brecht bring their inspiring documentary Crip Camp to the silver screen the same year as the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and at a time when the country's largest minority group still battles daily for the freedom to exist.

Camp Jened, a hippy-run "ramshackle" summer came in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and was located not far from the location of the infamous Woodstock Music Festival during the same era. The unique aspect of this summer camp was that it was for teenagers with disabilities. The space created for this summer camp was where people with disabilities were treated as equal members within a community and for many it was the first time they could be themselves, or as the director s note, “be the fullness of themselves as human beings.”

This was liberating for each camper and even for the staff. The camaraderie and experiences that developed over time at Camp Jened was the beginning that set each of them on a course for life which they never dreamed possible-for themselves and others with disabilities. Their dreams only got bigger affecting the non-disabled, the United States, and the world.

Another liberating discovery awakened while 'growing up' at Camp Jened was that their disability was not a problem but living in an unjust world increased problems they'd encounter. The camp had to close its doors due to financial difficulties in the mid-1970s. As sad as it was for the tight community of teens who regularly attended the summer camp to no longer be together in that environment, each one began to move forward to make a name for themselves.

Many of the teens migrated West to Berkeley, California. These Camp Jened friends realized that they had the potential to not only grow a diverse disability community out West but that their unity might for cause could have life-changing accessibility for millions.

Crip Camp is a delightfully told story of a summer camp that brought teens with disabilities together and over years created a bond that would last a lifetime. That's not the end of the story though because Crip Camp reveals how these teens were 'on the move' toward a future that has been something greater than themselves without initially knowing it. Their influence has affected hundreds if not thousands of individuals who had similar life experiences. The featured teens (now adults) and their journeys showcased in this documentary are  all inspiring.

It is no wonder that two of the executive producers of Crip Camp, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have some special words to share about this incredible story:

"At Higher Ground, we want to shine a light on stories that are hidden in the shadows. Crip Camp is exactly that kind of story. I have always believed that a few brave voices can be the driving force of progress-and this film is a tribute to an extraordinary group of people who, in speaking out in whatever way that they could, shaped our country's course. Crip Camp is both a gripping not look at the history of the disability rights movement and a timely call to action, urging us to explore our own duty to fight for the dignity of all people." -President Barack Obama

"Watching Crip Camp for the first time, I was reminded of how rare it is to see teenagers with disabilities on a big screen being just that: teenagers. Laughing and smiling, with sweet summer crushes and streaks of fierce independence. Crip Camp captures the complexity and hum its of living with disabilities, and it honors this community of young people who would go on to lead the disability rights movement. Their spirit and resilience reminded me of my father, a joyful man, quick with a laugh, who struggled with M.S., for much of his life. While his disability didn't define who he was, it would be foolish to say it didn't keenly impact him either. This film honors this story and so many others, and I'm proud of everyone who played a role in making it possible.”-Michelle Obama