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Film screening keeps out some with disabilities

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    A short film featuring several Coarc members is set to be shown at the FilmColumbia festival next week but many featured in the film may not be able to see it because it is set to be screened at venue without a wheelchair ramp.
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    A short film featuring several Coarc members is set to be shown at the FilmColumbia festival next week but many featured in the film may not be able to see it because it is set to be screened at venue without a wheelchair ramp.
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    The Crandell Theatre in Chatham will host many of the films being shown as part of the upcoming FilmColumbia film festival.
October 18, 2017 - 02:27 am

CHATHAM — A short documentary starring several Coarc members is set to be shown at the FilmColumbia Film Festival next week but many featured in the film may not be able to see it because it is set to be screened at a venue without American Disabilities Act accessibility.

“Possibility: The Space between Limits,” directed by Sasha Sicurella, is scheduled to be shown Oct. 27 at 3:15 p.m. at Morris Memorial at 17 Park Row.

In a letter dated Oct. 11 and addressed to FilmColumbia Executive Director Peter Biskind, Coarc Board of Directors President Dorothy Weaver and Chatham Mayor Thomas A. Curran requested an alternate venue for the screening.

In a one-page letter obtained by the Register-Star, Coarc staff said one of the film’s main participants is wheelchair-bound and would be unable to attend.

“Our excitement at being accepted into the Film Festival was quickly dampened when one of the individuals in our film said, ‘The Morris isn’t accessible, I can’t go,’” Weaver and Curran wrote.

The 30-minute film is described in a synopsis on FilmColumbia’s website as “an inspirational documentary” that features “a number of local men and women with disabilities who have each found supportive partners.”

According to the festival’s website, “Possibility” is the first of five short films that will premiere at Morris Memorial Row starting at 3:15 p.m. on Oct. 27.

The move would not just affect those associated with Coarc, but some members of the general public as well, according to the letter.

“Not only will the individuals Coarc supports be able to attend and access with dignity, other members of the community will as well,” according top the letter. “Individuals with diagnoses of COPD, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, individuals who use walkers or canes, seniors who just cant walk, climb and maintain balance like they used to and so many others, will have the ability to present at the shorts screening.”

Film Festival Managing Director Calliope Nicholas said Tuesday that the screening location would likely not be moved. The letter was dated a week and a half before the seven-day festival was scheduled to run from Oct. 22-29.

Nicholas said she did not consider while scheduling the festival that Morris Memorial was not accessible under ADA guidelines. A discussion between the boards of both organizations is ongoing about accessibility at future events, Nicholas said.

The letter asks festival organizers to move the screening of the film to the Chatham Firehouse, which is handicapped-accessible, and “offers a feasible way to solve this problem.”

But Nicholas said moving the film to the firehouse “wouldn’t logistically work,” as it is some distance from the Crandell, where 80 percent of the festival’s films are already being screened, and more than 2 1/2 days of programming are already scheduled at Morris.

FilmColumbia looked into installing a wheelchair ramp at Morris, but the cost was too prohibitive for the nonprofit at a price tag of $1,200, according to Nicholas.

FilmColumbia said it would offer to work with Coarc on applying for state grants to help fund the ramp.

Film festival organizers also offered to have volunteers to help people up to the theater.

But that is not a long-term or safe solution, according to Coarc.

“Carrying individuals up the stairs is both dangerous and lacking in dignity,” according to the letter.

“Columbia County is a very inclusive community,” Wheeler said Tuesday when asked about the letter. “I don’t think it’s malicious. I don’t think there is any malcontent. I just think it’s something people don’t think of unless they are involved with someone with (accessibility) issues.”

Wheeler said her intention was not to just speak for the Coarc community.

“It is kind of ironic,” she said. “We want to show this film to get other people to start thinking that they are just people like you and me with just another hurdle to jump,” she said. “We want anybody to be able to access arts and cultural events in Columbia County.”

A free screening and discussion of “Possibility: The Space Between Limits” is also scheduled from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Benenson Visitor’s Center as part of the OMI International Arts Center, 1405 County Route 22, Ghent.

Curran did not immediately return a message for comment on Tuesday. Biskind was unavailable for comment Tuesday, according to staff.

To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to apurcell@thedailymail.net, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.