Tears streamed down the faces of moved audience members on Monday Nov. 5 after having watched the inspiring film Intelligent Lives. Faculty from the Learning Independence, Vocational and Educational Skills program presented this documentary by Dan Habib about young adults with disabilities to make known the perspectives of individuals with struggles that many are unfamiliar with.
LIVES itself is a program dedicated to students at Geneseo with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. The documentary, Intelligent Lives, focuses on three young adults who experience intellectual disabilities first-hand.
LIVES program director and professor of education Leigh O’Brien was one of the many audience members who attended the event. This film came out at a special time for her.
“Fortunately for me, Habib’s most recent documentary came out at a time that coincided with me becoming director of the LIVES program last spring,” O’Brien said. “Since that time, I’ve thought about sharing the documentary.”
Many of O’Brien’s students came to watch the documentary. The film follows the perspectives of a boy in high school, a young woman and a man in his early 30s. These individuals all have different struggles and goals, but a common goal between the three is furthering their education and gaining the skills needed to enter the workforce.
The daily lives and progress of the three people didn’t go unseen, thanks to the videographer of the film. The high-school-aged boy, Naieer, was able to create art with the help of his compassionate art teacher despite his occasional frustration with the process and hoped to go to college for art upon graduation.
The thirty-something man followed by the film, Micah, graduated from a program at Syracuse University and went on to be hired as a teaching assistant at the school. Naomie, the young woman in the documentary, was hired at the beauty salon she interned at. She expressed how happy she was to finally be able to make money on her own, something a lot of people take for granted.
The documentary also mentioned that IQ tests aren’t accurate representations of what students are capable of, even if they are required by most schools. Every student has different skills; according to the documentary, these tests aren’t helpful for the mental health of students with disabilities.
The film represents people without disabilities from a different perspective, showing that certain goals take more work to achieve for individuals with challenges in their lives. After the film ended and tears had dried, some of the students from the LIVES program talked about how their experiences matched up with those portrayed in the documentary.
Sophomore Laura Newton of the LIVES program was touched by her relation to the film.
“It brought back a lot of memories,” Newton said.
She shared that she wasn’t included in high school as much as she should have been, but she doesn’t find that to be the case in the program here at Geneseo.
Newton also expanded on why she wanted to come to Geneseo to continue her education.
“I grew up with unloving parents who thought I wasn’t going to amount to anything,” Newton said. “When I discovered the LIVES program, I was like, ‘I’m going for it.’”
The documentary was an eye opener for students of all degrees of impairments. It is common for students without disabilities to forget that not everyone can do what might come easily to them, and this documentary was an empowering true story about the results of individuals overcoming their own challenges.