Films About Disability Inclusion (Ages 9+)

Films About Disability Inclusion (Ages 9+)

School Subjects: Human Rights, Diversity in Communities, Issues in Society, Social History of Canada (1946–1991)

This playlist of Canadian films contains primary documents spanning 50 years, chronicling the experiences of children with disabilities in Canada while exploring social history and human rights. These personal and intimate vignettes of life with a disability show viewers examples of strength, grace and brilliance, as well as segregation, isolation and barriers to accessing equal education. Analysis of these films by students in post-secondary programs in education, special education and history of childhood could provide valuable insights into the trajectory of teaching methods and systemic issues that people with disabilities and their families have faced historically in Canada.

The reform of education for children with special needs is the implicit theme of this selection, which documents the array of special education methods and theories that have been employed in Canada over the last five decades. Knowledge of the history of special education better equips practitioners for analytic reasoning, complex problem solving and innovative solutions.

The 1970s series of vignettes Children of Canada, which includes Oscar-winning I’ll Find a Way, about Nadia, a girl with spina bifida, provides primary documents illustrating cultural attitudes of segregation and the labels applied to children who were not that different. This series predates and anticipates reforms of inclusive special education, and the school footage shows antiquated teaching methods and language about disability. Children with vision and mobility impairments and neurodiversity are represented in the series.

Today, Canadian classrooms are legally required to be as inclusive as possible, but parents are often in the role of advocacy for the human rights of their children within provincial education systems.

Public school teachers who wish to foster inclusive, cooperating learning environments could show John and Michael, the story of an intimate, lifelong friendship between two men with Down syndrome, or A Child Unlike Any Other, about a family’s struggle to support their son, who is on the autism spectrum. The perspectives of the children in these films make them appropriate as resources that promote socialization in classrooms.

By placing viewers in the role of inclusive and human rights advocates for classmates and students who traditionally have faced barriers in Canadian schools, these films can help reduce the isolation of children and families with disabilities.

Norah Pendergast, NFB Educator Network

  • The Tournament
    1995|6 min

    A little deaf girl who plays against an arrogant boy in a chess tournament is unaffected by his scorn but responds warmly to the attentions of a young poet. Based on article 23 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, this film illustrates disabled children's right to enjoy a full and decent life. A film without words.

  • Private Eyes
    2011|14 min

    This 3D stereoscopic animation tells the story of Matthew, a boy who is never afraid of the dark. Since he's been in darkness all his life, Matthew has eyes where other people only have hands, feet or ears. This week is Matthew's birthday and he's very curious about the surprise his parents are preparing for him. Can he find it?

  • I'll Find a Way
    1977|25 min

    This Oscar®-winning documentary presents Nadia, a 9-year-old girl with spina bifida. Her dream is to attend a regular school, even though she knows other kids will tease her. Wise for her young age, Nadia simply decides that she'll "find a way to deal with it." Despite having to overcome many obstacles, Nadia's got spunk and makes it clear she's not looking for sympathy. This film is part of the Children of Canada series.

  • John and Michael
    2004|10 min

    This animated short pays tribute to two men with Down syndrome who shared an intimate and profoundly loving relationship that deeply affected the filmmaker. Narrator Brian Davis brings the characters to life with great sensitivity.

  • My Friends Call Me Tony
    1975|12 min

    Meet Tony Rossi, a 10-year-old boy who can only distinguish light from shadow. Despite this difficulty, he leads a very active life. The short documentary shows the ingenious ways in which Tony manages his life. This film is part of the Children of Canada series.

  • All About Kids
    1964|9 min

    This vintage short doc from the sixties brings together three quaint vignettes about Canadian childhood. In Quebec Aquarium, school children see marine life at close range, while Children's Play Therapy focuses on the importance of games and handicrafts for young patients recovering at Winnipeg’s Children’s Hospital. Finally, Soccer School takes us to British Columbia, where British coach Trevor Churchill is helping to spark interest in the increasingly popular sport.

  • A Child Unlike Any Other
    2005|11 min

    In this short documentary about autism, director Anna Barczewska examines the complex challenge of raising autistic children. Through the voice of Jan's devoted mother and the comments of specialists, the film offers an introduction to this neurological disorder that reduces one’s ability to communicate with the outside world.