Friday, July 8, 2016

Finding myself in "Finding Dory"

Just after opening weekend, I eagerly rolled into the theater, preparing to  crush some little children and their popcorn on the way to the wheelchair seats.

Sadly, with the exception of, like, two people, we were the furthest ones forward.

You see, I had been waiting for this moment since before they were born.

Unlike many, I did not see Disney/Pixar's Finding Dory as a sequel competition. I knew that this one would be different. Indeed, it would contain the same brilliant animation seascapes to be expected from Pixar, contrary to popular critiques. It contained enough flashbacks to Finding Nemo to satisfy those who hadn't seen it, or perhaps might have forgotten some things, similar to the title character herself.   Maybe it was because I was so young, and I didn't know better yet, but I didn't really  relate to Nemo and his “little fin.” In the first film, this really was not a central topic.But I knew  this one would expand on the idea of disability and acceptance in a big way, unlike its predecessor.

Unless you've been living under a rock, or perhaps in one as the case may be, you know that Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) is a blue tang fish who has short-term memory loss (I cringed when her parents said she "suffers' from it in the beginning, but this might be more accurate as to how Dory views herself sometimes as she has several panic attacks throughout the movie). She is on a misadventure from school one day when she has a flashback that sends her on yet another epic adventure to find her parents, who she is separated from as an adorable little Baby Dory.

A lot of critics take issue with the fact that this adventure unfolds in much the same fantastical way as Marlin's search for Nemo. But I don't see this as a bad thing. The journey to the Marine Life Institute has enough ridiculous shenanigans and plot twists to sustain just the audience it was intended for: four-year-olds! Bonus points for automated Sigourney Weaver and a cynical septopus with (other) sea creature issues (Ed O'Neill), and you have some fun for the adults, too!

But I will get back to the portrayal of Dory's memory loss. While their language is sometimes questionable, in my opinion, Dory's parents take their very real fear and channel it into a practical approach that acknowledges Dory's challenges and figures out how to deal with them without devaluing her. This is everything my adult self could ever want from parents and educators. I won't give it away, but the part where Dory remembers to follow the shells had me blubbering more than Destiny, the low-vision whale!

There were many other relatable moments, too.  Dory is constantly apologizing for her disability, something I find myself doing so constantly, it becomes a nervous tick. Even though she knows better, she still feels like she is "doing it wrong", a notion usually confirmed by society, either intentionally or not. That experience is so. so. real.

"What Would Dory Do?" There is a point in the film where Marlin and Nemo run out of ideas while looking for Dory.  While trying to think of a solution,  Nemo realizes that this is not how Dory would solve the problem, and it causes the two of them to try a different way of thinking for processing the situation, much like somebody with a sensory disability might do.

 How Dory Interacts with Other Disabled Characters   No matter if Dory is trying to solve her own problem or help one of her friends, she always recognizes them in a positive way and how they can contribute to the situation. This is not to say that this is always cause for positive thinking, but if there is a dangerous situation, rather than being afraid of something she knows nothing about, Dory tries to use her friends to help her save the truck from going to Cleveland, showing the value of interdependence.

 Universal Design While on their quest to stop the truck, there is a scene where Destiny doesn't think she can get on to the bridge because she can jump past the wall. Dory reminds her that in the ocean, there are no walls, and she can swim exactly the way she wants to. This is a well hidden metaphor for inclusion but the world would be so much better if people just understood how creatures coexist in the ocean.

  I'm sure there are many more that I missed, but overall I would give this film a very strong rating for how it presented the main themes of disability and acceptance to children and adults alike. Yeah, some of the plot points might not be interesting but that doesn't stop this from being one of my new favorite movies. So well worth the wait!

 What did you think?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Different Kind of Powerball, Episode 2

Hello, friends.

As you may recall, a while ago I posted this project when I was first learning about the sport of Power Soccer and how it is expanding here in the Pacific Northwest. Well, I had to take a hiatus due to other life circumstances, but, starting in May, I was able to pick up the sport again now that it has gotten restarted.

With a whole new set of people  involved, that  means many opportunities for team events, practices, and skill-building.  With that in mind, a few of us from Seattle Adaptive Sports  were able to travel June 25th to the B.C. Provincial Power Soccer Championships in Cloverdale, B.C. This event was  put on by SportAbility BC, an organization that I was already familiar with because of my brief time at Camp Squamish in 2009.

For me, this was the first time I had seen a live game in action, other than played by my former teammates at Paralympic Sport Alaska. It was amazing to see the game played with the proper equipment, speed, and finesse. When growing a sport such as this, a regulation scrimmage with  eight players is much different than what we now have the opportunity to practice with three to four  players.

I was able to catch up with SportAbility executive director Ross MacDonald about the game. "Power soccer has been going on for probably over 20 years," he said. MacDonald noted that the sport has been a part of his organization for five or six years. His organization is also responsible for other sports, such as sledge hockey, boccia ball, and seven-a-side soccer.

I also had a chance to talk with player Keith Knight, who has been playing the sport for about 24 years, after learning about it from a  family member at a local rehabilitation  hospital. Knight has played for several teams, including a Canadian national team at the FIPFA 2011 World Cup in Paris, which he noted as a favorite experience.

This  tournament consisted of four teams composed of four individually registered players plus  two extra subs. As these are not competitive teams, most of the competitors had played with each other in other venues or practices. There were nine games in total, as well as classification and speed testing practice sessions. The first game I had the opportunity to watch was the Thunder versus the Hurricane. I was not only impressed by the speed and precision of the game, but also the equipment. This was the first time I got to see sport power chairs in action. They are faster and lighter than my everyday Beastmobile and frequently do not have the spin safety  inhibitor that restricts the spin kick, which is absolutely crucial in power soccer, when the game becomes much more a game of high-speed pinball as it should be, with the 13-inch ball being shot across the court at frightening speeds!

"If you have a power chair and you want to play, you'll get a guard that goes on the front of your chair-- whether it's plastic or metal is really up to you-- and it's all about controlling the ball, " MacDonald said.

The equipment setup is unique for every person, as it fits their support and mobility needs. Some have bought these specialty sports chairs for play, usually acquired through fundraising or other donations, while others, like Knight, continue to use their personal equipment for play, although Knight said he is in the process of getting a sport chair, which he is excited about.

He also said he enjoys playing offense more, but his favorite moments included blocking a crucial goal in preparation for the championship.

But MacDonald's favorite moments are more about the bigger picture.
 "My favorite moments are when new players have moments of success. You know, they're new to it, they're still trying to figure out the game, because they're playing with players at a higher level. But whether they make a great pass or a great play, or the best part, they score a goal, and then you see the smiles on their faces."

That's enough for me to be back again. In a jersey.

But, let's be real, I'm a little more competitive than that!

You can learn more about Power Soccer here.

Image: Three people in power chairs and one person standing are visible on a basketball court. The woman in the foreground has a white jacket and a yellow jersey hanging on the back of her chair. There is a man appearing to play with her, wearing a white shirt, yellow jersey and jeans. A woman is slightly visible in the background wearing a white shirt and a green jersey. The coach is a woman with dark hair standing in the background, holding a clipboard. 

Three players are visible on the court, all are in power chairs. One man is wearing a yellow shirt with a black chest strap.  A green foam block is visible on his knees. There is a man behind him wearing a red jersey. The third man is facing away from the camera, wearing a green shirt. The blue cushions on his wheelchair are visible. Spectators are visible throughout the window in the background.

Image:A wide shot of the court with six players visible, wearing red or green jerseys. Player Keith Knight is on the left in a yellow jersey. Various officials are seen standing in the background

Image: SportAbility BC executive director Ross MacDonald, smiling from his manual chair. He is white with short brown hair, wearing a navy blue SportAbility jacket, gray athletic pants, and bright blue sneakers. Background is the lobby of the recreation center, which has a wall painted to look like the Northern Lights.