The ReelEducation program

Bringing films about differently-abled persons into classrooms

movie still The Interviewer. Film description: Thomas is a lawyer looking for more in life. During an interview at a prestigious law firm, he realized that his chance to make a difference in the world is closer and more unexpected than he could ever imagine.

One can only trust that society will reach a place where universal design will be the core of every development plan. And eventually, all living spaces will accommodate differently-abled people and allow the whole community to be able to enjoy their city, place of work or school without obstruction.

Younger people of today have been the most exposed to living in communities where differently-abled people are getting a fair chance at experiencing a full life. More and more they get the chance to share spaces that accommodate everyone.

Now in its third year, the ReelAbilities Film Festival: Toronto has been showcasing films that address topics such as inclusion, disability and accessibility. As the largest festival in Canada dedicated to showcasing Deaf and disability cultures, it has received an overwhelming number of requests from teachers and parents needing tailored tools to talk to kids about these sometimes tough topics.

In response to these requests, the Festival is launching the ReelEducation program in classrooms across Ontario. Starting on April 3, 2018, the ReelEducation program will offer teachers downloadable lesson plans and activities paired with eleven films from around the world to help students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 learn about and be exposed to different cultures.

These free resources are meant for educators and parents to teach students about inclusion, empathy, universal design, mental health and stereotypes, as well as attitudinal and employment barriers. Each ReelEducation kit comes in an accessible format (films with open captioning) with a lesson plan that identifies the theme in each film.

More specifically, the films and lessons centre on the experiences and stories of people with disabilities, including people with Autism; developmental, mobility and visual disabilities; and people who identify as Deaf. The program encompasses eleven films from countries around the world, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Iraq, Australia, New Zealand, and
the Netherlands.

ReelAbilities Toronto, with the support of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and other sponsors, has partnered with the Rick Hansen Schools Program and Harmony Movement to develop the inaugural ReelEducation curriculum and connect with school boards, administrators, parents and teachers. For schools in the GTA, there will be an exciting field trip opportunity at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in mid to late May, where ReelAbilities will bring together kids with and without disabilities to view the films and learn together.

If educators are interested in the program and would like to learn more, they can visit toronto.reelabilitieslegacy.org/reeleducation and fill out a form so the ReelEducation team can get in touch.

To download the films and lesson plans or for more information on the ReelAbilities Film Festival: Toronto taking place from May 30 to June 4, 2018, visit toronto.reelabilities.org.

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