Inclusive programming features some inspiring people on Fridays in July

Friday evening programming in July introduces viewers to some differently abled people as part of WGCU’s Move to Include initiative.

On Friday, July 10 at 9 p.m. on WGCU’s main PBS channel, see “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. This program re-airs at 3 a.m. on Monday, July 13.

On Friday, July 17 at 9 p.m. on WGCU, “Employment Matters” is a documentary that explores the untapped market and huge potential of the intellectually disabled in the workplace. The show re-airs at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 18.

On Friday, July 24 at 9 p.m. on WGCU, see “Hearts of Glass,” which 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. on WGCU, “The Life Autistic” premieres. It features the personal stories of people with autism and the challenges they face at different stages of life.

Meanwhile, the WGCU WORLD Channel airs several episodes of “Reel South” and “America Reframed” that feature disability issues through July 12 and again with “Reel South” on Sunday and Monday, July 26 and 27 at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. respectively.

In “Reel South: Driven Blind,” world champion drag racer Dan Parker is blinded in a fiery racing accident and must adjust to his new reality. In “Reel South: Jonah Stands Up,” Jonah Bascle challenges stereotypes associated with differently abled people in New Orleans.

Also on WGCU WORLD, “Generation A: Portraits of Autism and the Arts” debuts Tuesday, July 14 at 7 p.m. and re-airs twice on Wednesday.

Featuring interviews with well-known autism expert Dr. Temple Grandin, actor Ed Asner and others, “Generation A” looks at the daily challenges faced by young people on the autism spectrum, and what creative therapies and art programs – in music, dance, art and animation – are available to stimulate the brain and help young people on the autism spectrum reach their highest potential.

On July 14 at 8 p.m. on WORLD, “America Reframed: Deej” is a Peabody Award-winning film about DJ Savarese (“Deej”), a gifted young writer and advocate for people with autism who do not speak. Once a “profoundly disabled” foster kid on a fast track to nowhere, DJ is now a college student who insists on standing up for his peers: people who are dismissed as incompetent because they are neurologically diverse. It re-airs several times during the month.

Although “Hearts of Glass” is part of the WGCU Friday night lineup on the main channel on July 24, the documentary actually debuts earlier on WORLD. Tune in at 9 p.m. July 14 to see it first.

On Monday, July 20 at 8 p.m. on WORLD, tune in for “The Teachings of Jon.” This is an insightful and humorous documentary by Jennifer Owensby about her brother Jon, a 40-year-old man severely and profoundly affected by Down syndrome. Although Jon may never accomplish much by conventional standards — he has an IQ of 20, cannot talk and earns less than $13 a year — his greater purpose is to teach others how to love. The program celebrates Jon exactly as he is, rather than focusing on changing Jon to fit into the world. 

Yet another episode of “America Reframed,” subtitled “Vision Portraits,” deals with the challenges of disability. Director Rodney Evans takes viewers on a personal journey as he ponders how the deterioration of his vision will impact his life and work as a filmmaker. Interviewing blind and low vision artists – a photographer, a dancer and a writer – Evans embarks on a quest to learn how other artists have continued to create art and how their journeys might serve as inspiration for his own.

“Vision Portraits” is on at 8 p.m. on July 21 on WGCU WORLD and re-airs several times in July. Many of the programs found on WORLD can be viewed online also, at


Author: Dayna Harpster