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Movie night brings new perspectives on disability

“A human being can never be broken,” Hugh Herr emphasizes in his Ted Talk speech. Herr is a bionics engineer, a rock climber and a double amputee with prosthetic legs developed by himself, and is featured in the documentary “Fixed: the science/fiction of human enhancement.”

The film was screened by the Washington State University Vancouver Diversity Center during the first week of Disability Awareness Month. The movie’s creators, led by director and producer Regan Brashear, sought to shine light on the discourse surrounding the topic of human enhancement through advanced technology such as prosthetic limbs or visual implants. The movie featured scientists and other experts in the field and they all addressed the issue of human enhancement.

Herr is presented as a proponent of human enhancement in “Fixed.” He argues that society needs to dispel with the notion of normalcy and sees technology as a means to liberation from human limitations.

However, Judy Berne, a disability justice educator, believes that enhancement technology can lead to further inequality. According to Berne, such advanced technology will only be available to the most affluent. “We don’t have basic health care,” said Berne, “talk about misplaced priorities.”

Amanda Shannahan, the diversity center advisor, said that she hoped the film’s use of multiple perspectives would generate good discussions among students. She said that the purpose of the film was to provide exposure to the issue of disability, challenge stereotypes and allow students to learn something new.

Eric Oblepias, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, said the movie made him consider issues he had not thought of before, such as having the choice of not bringing a potentially disabled child into the world.

“In my mind, I would not have that child, and I was thinking that’s fine, that’s not selfish,” Oblepias said, “but the idea that you are making people that are already in this world feel like they don’t belong, that‘s an idea I haven’t really considered before.”

Shannahan thinks that WSU Vancouver is on the right track when it comes to providing access and raising awareness around the topic of disability, but stressed that there is room for improvement.

As an example, Shannahan described a conversation she had with a deaf student who pointed out the lack of visual warnings during the recent lockdown drill on campus. “There is always more that we could be doing,” Shannahan said.

“Fixed” is also available for free streaming on WSU Vancouver library’s website, and the DVD can also be checked out.

For more information on the remaining activities for Disability Awareness Month, contact Shannahan at 360-546-9182, or via email at amanda.shannahan@wsu.edu.

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