Wheelchair Diaries: One Step Up

A filmmaker explores the lack of handicapped accessibility in Western Europe.
by
Year Released
2017
Film Length(s)
27 mins
Closed captioning available Audio description available
Remote video URL

Introduction

When Reid Davenport was discouraged from studying abroad during his junior year of college based on his disability, he was more than a bit surprised. Davenport decided to travel with a cameraperson throughout Europe, documenting the lives of Europeans with disabilities and exploring the social impact of inaccessibility.

Featured review

[Highly Recommended]"The candid narrative and dialog between the filmmaker and subjects creates for an exceptional film that increases awareness of accessibility issues. Highly recommended as teaching material for college level students, excellent material for discussion starters in the classroom, community forums and panel discussions related to accessibility issues.
Educational Media Reviews Online
Educational Media Reviews Online

Synopsis

Reid Davenport has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around and live his life in Washington, D.C., but has lived an independent life as a college student and published journalist. So when Davenport was discouraged from studying abroad during his junior year of college based on his disability, he was more than a bit surprised. Davenport decided to travel with a cameraperson to five European cities in three weeks.

The film introduces viewers to three Europeans with disabilities, all of which live completely different lives from one another. Gavin is a 39-year-old Dubliner whose perspective on disability and accessibility has changed when he was diagnosed with chronic progressive multiple sclerosis 15 years ago. Matthieu is a 23-year-old law student at Sorbonne University in Paris who has been confined to a wheelchair his entire life because of spinal muscular atrophy and wants to practice law in the U.S. because of its superior accessibility. Francois is a 33-year-old journalist with cerebral palsy, who has a podcast about handicapped topics and advocates for disability rights in his native-city of Brussels. Along with Davenport's own difficulties traveling throughout Europe, these three people provide the anecdotes that put disability in a light that is rarely shone on them in the media and shows the undeniable connection between disability and the human condition.

Reviews

He was accepted into a program in Florence, but then was strongly discouraged from attending after program officials learned Davenport has cerebral palsy. That could have been the end of the story. Instead, it gave him a powerful idea.
Brigid McCarthy
NPR
After Reid's appearance on Newshour, anchor Judy Woodruff concluded, "Reid Davenport, we owe you a huge debt of gratitude and I hope everyone watching this segment will share it.
Judy Woodruff
PBS Newshour
In this moving – and sometimes humorous - documentary, a college student with a disability who was refused admission to an Italian study abroad program sets out to explore how Europe treats those in wheelchairs. What he finds is revealing not only of European attitudes but also of how society as a whole views disability.
Utopia Film Festival
Utopia Film Festival
Wheelchair Diaries: One Step Up strikes a human chord shedding light on the too often disregarded value of disabled Europeans.
The Johns Hopkins Newsletter
The Johns Hopkins Newsletter

Awards and Screenings

Best Short Documentary, Awareness Festival, 2013
Visions Award, Utopia Film Festival, 2013
Runner-Up, Audience Choice Award, Reality Bytes Film Festival, 2014
DC Independent Film Festival, 2014
Rated Socially Relevant Film Festival, 2014
Johns Hopkins Film Festival, 2014
Kaleidoscope Arts Festival - Slippery Rock University, 2014
Alexandria Film Festival, 2013
Picture This Film Festival, 2013
Bosifest, 2013
George Washington University
Illinois State University
Marymount University
Western Michigan University
Bethel High School
Reed Intermediate School
Boys and Girls Club - Ridgefield, Conn

Director Commentary

I made this film partially out of frustration of not being able to study abroad with my classmates. If accessibility was so bad in Europe that I couldn’t go, I wondered how Europeans with disabilities function. I had never made a film before and even though the accessibility is in many ways worse in Europe than the U.S., I found many of the social problems people with disabilities face are the same. The experience of making Wheelchair Diaries is why I have and will make more films from the disabled perspective.

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Audio Description
  • Closed Captioning

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

Opens in new window