Focus is on abilities in WGCU’s ‘Move to Include’ programming for kids and adults

Students in Mr. Sparks’ class at “Hero Elementary” on PBS Kids know that they can ask their friend A.J. Gadget when they need a creative solution to a problem.

Gadget is a budding superhero, as are his classmates. But unlike the others, Gadget is on the autism spectrum. He carries around all of his gadgets in a backpack – which also functions as a jetpack – and he’s always coming up with more gadgets. His type of intelligence includes “thought projection,” which allows him to visualize his own thought processes. As a result, he’s a great strategic thinker.

It’s in this spirit of abilities, rather than disabilities, that WGCU and a handful of other public media stations across the country are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act this month in the “Move to Include” initiative.

The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Move to Include is dedicated to topics including education, healthcare, housing, recreation, employment and local efforts to support inclusion – through television, radio, news, special events, and social media. This is WGCU’s first year to participate in the initiative, which began in 2014 with WXXI Public Media in Rochester, New York, and the Golisano Foundation.

It includes programming for both children and adults.

“Hero Elementary” airs on PBS Kids twice a day. Check for times.

A.J. Gadget isn’t the only young character whose abilities are different. At 6:30 a.m. many (Friday) mornings in July, PBS favorites Arthur, Peg+Cat and Clifford all appear in episodes with people who are disabled.

But of course, people with disabilities are not all fictional.

Older children and their families likely will enjoy some of the Move to Include shows Friday evenings on WGCU this month as well.

On July 10 at 9 p.m., WGCU airs “America Reframed: Perfectly Normal for Me.”

Alexandria, Jake, Caitlin and Veronica reveal what it’s like to live with physical disabilities. Their parents search out opportunities where they are accepted and feel valued, such as a dance program in Queens, New York.

Filmmakers follow these students at the “Dancing Dreams” after-school program over the course of a year as they prepare for a spring dance recital. Though difficulties arise, the students accept each challenge with grace and dignity, offering proof that desire, hard work and the support of a loving community help them gain self-confidence and have fun.

“Perfectly Normal for Me” also highlights the dedicated involvement of parents, teenage volunteer helpers and prima ballerina Jenifer Ringer, then of the New York City Ballet, whose respect and candor gives them insight into reaching their goals.

On Friday, July 17 at 9 p.m., WGCU will air the documentary “Employment Matters,” about the potential among adults with intellectual disabilities in Canada that is not being tapped.

On Friday, July 24 at 9 p.m., “Hearts of Glass” follows the tumultuous first 15 months of operation of Vertical Harvest of Jackson, Wyoming, a state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse that provides meaningful employment for people with disabilities. The film weaves the story of VH’s launch with the personal journeys of employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Plants and people grow together in this intimate portrait of innovation, inclusion and community.

Then on Friday, July 31 at 9 p.m., “The Life Autistic” premieres. It features the personal stories of people with autism and the challenges they face at different stages of life.