In 2008, Randy Dipner was looking for ways to bring the issues surrounding disability to the forefront of Colorado Springs' public consciousness. As the founder/director of Meeting the Challenge, a local company that provides information services on disability and especially the Americans with Disabilities Act, he knew that the ADA would only really start to make a difference when those issues were on everyone's mind, and when disability was no longer viewed as something out of the norm.
His goals took a huge leap forward with the arrival of Obie Award-winning thespian Ping Chong, who interviewed about 100 Coloradans with disabilities and then co-wrote a play with Sara Zatz telling the stories of six of them — four of whom live in Colorado Springs.
Invisible Voices: New Perspectives on Disability debuted in UCCS' Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater on Oct. 1, 2009, and was turned into a documentary film produced by Dipner himself. A year later, the creative effort is still winning acclaim: On Oct. 19, Meeting the Challenge announced that it received an Award of Merit from The Accolade Competition, which recognizes filmmakers for exceptional achievement in "craft and creativity."
In the press release, Dipner expressed his delight at the award and his hopes that the film would continue to foster understanding. However, one of his most impressive comments actually came from his interview with the Indy's Kirsten Akens when the play premiered last year. Reading what he had to say, I experienced a moment of ontological shock.
"There are 54 million Americans living with a disability," he said. "And it's the only minority group all of us have a chance to join."
Call it self-centered: The thought that disability, while not part of my personal present, could be part of my future or that of people I love, gave me pause. I had the feeling that the challenge presented by the disability itself would be nothing compared to the challenge of a world that really doesn't get it.
It's not like any of us are anti-accessibility, anti-sensitivity or anti-advocacy when it comes to the members of our community who live with disabilities. But if Dipner's goal is to be accomplished, it's time for all of us to shed our assumptions and pay attention.
Read the press release about the award, including Dipner's comments mentioned above, below.
Meeting the Challenge, Inc. Receives Award of Merit for “Invisible Voices”
Compelling documentary about disability is honored by the Accolade Competition
(Colorado Springs, Colo., Oct. 19, 2010) — Meeting the Challenge, Inc. has won a prestigious Award of Merit from The Accolade Competition for its compelling documentary on disability, “Invisible Voices.” The documentary captures the original stage production and provides a window into the complex worlds of six individuals who have adapted to and thrived with their disabilities. “Invisible Voices” was written and directed by the internationally acclaimed playwright Ping Chong and features the life stories of Billy Allen, Sandy Lahmann, Rick Modderman, Kevin Pettit, Rebecca Shields and Kelly Tobin.
“We are extremely honored to receive this award,” said Randy Dipner, producer of “Invisible Voices” and founding partner of Meeting the Challenge. “We hope that many people with and without disabilities will see ‘Invisible Voices’ and be touched by the poignant stories told by the cast. We hope viewers will come away with a better understanding that people with disabilities are people first and who just live their lives with a few extra hurdles to overcome.”
The Accolade recognizes film, television, videography, and new media professionals who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity, and those who produce standout entertainment or contribute to profound social change. Entries are judged by highly qualified professionals in the film and television industry. Information about the Accolade and a list of recent winners can be found at www.theaccolade.net.
In winning an Accolade award, Meeting the Challenge joins the ranks of other high-profile winners of this internationally respected competition. Thomas Baker, Ph.D., who chairs The Accolade, had this to say about the latest winners, “The goal of the Accolade is to help winners achieve the recognition they deserve. The judges were pleased with the exceptionally high quality of entries that came in from around the world.”
“Invisible Voices” is now available as a two-disc set along with the documentary "Reflections on a Promise" which examines not only the history of the groundbreaking Americans with Disabilities Act legislation, but also considers what the ADA has accomplished, and how all Americans can help build on its successes. For more information and to purchase the DVDs, visit www.InvisibleVoices.org.