A disabilities studies course at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, involving engineering students and cerebral palsy (CP) self-advocates, is the subject of a new award-winning documentary, “The Ability Exchange.”
The film documents how engineering students and self-advocates with CP from United Cerebral Palsy of New York City explored new ways to communicate, connect and cultivate their abilities by working and making videos together for a semester.
The screening is at 6 p.m. Nov. 30 at NYU Tandon Pfizer Auditorium with a panel discussion after the film. The screening is free but registration is required.
The disabilities studies course is led by Allan B. Goldstein, senior lecturer at NYU Tandon, as part of the NYU ABILITY Project, which aims to bring together multidisciplinary experts and people with disabilities to discuss how to put technology in service to society.
The film (#TheAbilityExchange) was described by Indiwire as “an empathy engine” by illustrating the trajectories of personal growth and bonding that the inexperienced filmmakers go through in and out of the classroom.
The panel discussion after the film’s screening will include a question and answer session with comments from Goldstein, R. Luke DuBois, the co-founder of the NYU Ability Project, and the film’s director, Bing Wang.
The screening will be introduced by Dean Katepalli Sreenivasan. Victor Calise, the commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, will moderate the session.
“At NYU Tandon, a longstanding dictum has been that Man is one with Nature, from which flows the ideal that one must use one’s technical and scientific knowledge for the benefit of humankind,” Sreenivasan said in a press release.
“The Ability Project and our Disabilities Studies course ensure we are cultivating the character of students as well as their technical knowledge in their chosen field. We are pleased to welcome director Wang and to invite all New Yorkers and their friends to share the insights he gleaned from Allan Goldstein’s life-affirming course,” he said.
Goldstein said it was “very rewarding to see how the students change throughout the semester.”
“This heartwarming film captures that transformation and showcases just some of the pedagogy that makes a Tandon education unique. Viewers will see a different side of engineering students and self-advocates living with cerebral palsy,” he said.
Woven into the documentary are glimpses of the unusual teaching method Goldstein uses in his classes.
“It’s gratifying to have this screening in the place where it all started,” said Wang, the filmmaker. “It feels like a homecoming of sorts because of my time on this campus as well as with the students and advocates in the film.”
“The film shows that people with disabilities can do anything,” added Paul Tudisco, a self-advocate living with CP who served as a consultant in the class. “It was inspiring to help teach students more about disabilities and now have a film to show the world.”