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Crip Camp — A Disability Revolution
Directed by Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht
A Netflix Original

As you begin watching this documentary, you may think it is the story of a unique summer camp experience for young people with disabilities, and that it is. But it is also the story of how a revolution began. That revolution is the disability rights movement and its heart and soul were cultivated at Camp Jened in upstate New York. The camp started in the 1970s as a place where people with disabilities could experience all of the fun and joy of summer camp that young people without disabilities do, but these young people could finally be themselves, lose their inhibitions, express their emotions, be sexually active, try new things, and live life without fear or judgement. Many of the young people at Camp Jened became activists and inspirational mentors of the disability rights movement years later and one pivotal figure, Judy Heumann, became an advisor to Barack and Michelle Obama, who are the executive producers of Crip Camp.

As Heumann says at one point in the film, most people think of us as “sick,” which is a glaring and discriminatory misperception. Another interviewee describes the problem with people with disabilities as “the people without disabilities.” Another says that people without disabilities “don’t want us to be here; they want us dead.” Overcoming such misinformed and ignorant attitudes about people with disabilities and their rights to have access to and experience everything that people without disabilities have has been a herculean task but the advocates in this film were up for the challenge.

For me, the best part of the film are the segments from Camp Jened in which the raw emotions and frustrations of these exciting, funny, introspective people living with disabilities were documented with no filters and not sanitized for your protection. It is easy to see how the passions of these creative young people transformed into a movement that would change the lives of people with disabilities in ways they never imagined.

— Marianne Mallon, Editor