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Coming off the 'Disabled List'

Spring documentary premiere to change the way people see ability

Published: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 16:04

The "Disabled List" — sometimes it's only temporary. Others, though, are on it for life. But do they have to be?

On April 30, a group of 15 passionate students will release their film, "Coming Off the DL," in hopes of eliminating the stereotypes of people with disabilities.

"Coming Off the DL" is a 30-minute documentary written and produced by one of Villanova's social justice documentary classes. The class includes communication majors, a biology major, a political science major, business majors and engineers. To them, it is about the experience because the class, which requires hours of extra work outside the classroom, does not count toward many of their majors and minors. 

Some students are new to the class this year, but five of them are returning students who couldn't stay away. The class works as a professional crew, assigning a head of camera, editors, photographers, writers and directors. 

"It's a labor of love," senior Patricia Campbell says. "They forgo sleep, forgo homework, forgo food, just to be there to make this project the best it can be." 

Campbell serves as the student director for "Coming Off the DL" and was the line producer last semester, when the first documentary, "The Price of Life," was elected for a number of film festivals and nominated for awards. 

So far, over 80 hours of footage have been filmed, although it will all be condensed into a mere 30 minutes by April 30. 

The group is led by three instructors, Steve McWilliams, John O'Leary and Dan Hunt. McWilliams had the idea for a social justice documentary class a few years ago and finally got it approved last year. 

The purpose of the documentary is to open the eyes of able-bodied people to the social stigmas placed on those considered disabled. 

"We want to break down the fact that there are barriers between the students and those people," Campbell says. 

The focus is more on the effects of disabilities and the lives of those who live with them than on the disabilities themselves.

"Coming off the DL" highlights two students, freshman Frank Kineavy and incoming freshman Nick Gaynor, who have Cerebral Palsy, a nervous system condition that can affect movement, seeing, hearing, speaking and other nervous system functions.

For one part of the project, the students filmed Kineavy's entire morning routine. Kineavy's live-in nurse assists him with everything from brushing his teeth to putting on his clothing. 

Gaynor will attend Villanova in the fall. A few years ago, a family member sent him a newspaper article about Kineavy. Since then, Gaynor has looked up to Kineavy because they have a lot in common.

Gaynor's father works in the Admissions department at Villanova, so when he met Kineavy and realized he was the boy from the article, it was as if fate had brought them together.

Since then, the two have learned that their lives have even more parallels than they had thought: They are both managers of Villanova basketball teams. Kineavy is the manager of the men's basketball team, while Gaynor manages the women's team. 

Gaynor was one of the team's biggest fans all throughout high school, so when his dedication and intelligence proved worthy, he was given the opportunity to be its manager. Since then, he and the team have grown quite close, and the members consider him a true asset. 

Kineavy was given the opportunity to manage the men's team a little while later. He was the manager and assistant coach for his team in high school, and his coach referred him to Jay Wright. 

"Coming off the DL" not only follows the day-to-day lives of Kineavy and Gaynor, but also includes numerous interviews with family members, teachers, coaches and basketball players. 

"It takes a little more time and a little more effort to bring [disabled people like Kineavy and Gaynor] to the same level as everyone else," Campbell says. "But why not take that effort?"

"Coming Off the DL" will premiere on April 30 at 9 p.m. in Connelly Center Cinema. Admission is free. 

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