Well, by now you have probably heard of the documentary film “Spellers.” I was so happy to watch it at a screening last night in San Diego. Wow! I am so in awe of the Spellers and families and practitioners involved, and grateful to the filmmakers. They did an amazing job communicating what access to alternative communication means. I so enjoyed learning more about their stories!
I was honored to be asked to give the welcome message before the film, and to be part of the panel after alongside cast members Evan and Madison and local Speller Oliver. Wow! This was my first time presenting on a real stage, and it felt so right! I loved being up there so much. And to have my mom and younger sister in the audience felt so beautiful, and so meaningful. This was the first time they got to see me present to an in-person audience. My sister even bought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and it made me feel so special! To be onstage advocating for us nonspeakers while my family watched was such a proud moment!
All the Spellers on the panel were so strong and so committed to advocacy. I feel their pride in themselves and in our community. Truly, it was an amazing event! And thank you to Dawnmarie for inviting me to speak, and as always to Tara for being by my side. I am so hooked on public speaking now!
Below, I am sharing my prepared remarks, both the welcome and my answers to advance questions. And you should watch this film and spread the word!
WELCOME MESSAGE TO THE SAN DIEGO SCREENING OF SPELLERS:
Hi! I am Danny and I am so proud to be here!
I am so pleased to be greeting you all. As someone who waited over thirty long and lonely and lost years for communication access, the fact that I can now address an audience is huge, beyond anything I had hoped for back then. And the rising tide of awareness and access to this form of communication is so a long time coming! I want to highlight that families have been fighting in isolation for the communication rights of their loved ones for many years before this movie. What this movie represents is the greater momentum and strength of this growing community!
Please stay for the Question and Answer panel after the film! You will hear from some of the stars as well as me, and we have such important messages to share. And during the film, be comfortable in your own bodies, and be respectful of the bodies around you. This is a space for us, the marginalized because our bodies don’t always listen to our minds. This is a space where you don’t need to feel ashamed of that!
I want to thank all educators who are with us tonight. You are in a position to make changes that will fundamentally and significantly shape a better life for those like me. My public school experiences were traumatic, and something that no one should ever endure. You will impact your nonspeaker students no matter what you do; choose to make that impact positive, and you will be helping so many access their basic rights to autonomy and agency.
Thank you all for being here! I am so excited to watch this with you!
PREPARED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS PROVIDED IN ADVANCE
What do you want people to do after seeing this movie?
To make changes in your own lives about how you see us! And to share what you have learned with the people in your life. Spread the news! Keep learning from us! Follow us on social media, like me at Danny With Words on Facebook and Instagram. If you are an educator, presume competence! Change how you see those of us with a disability. And help get more nonspeakers access to life-saving communication!
How has spelling changed your life?
Too many ways to explain here! In simple terms, it gave me a real life. It opened up my universe in countless ways. From the small things, like picking out my outfit for tonight, to being able to advocate for our rights, to being able to show my full self to my loved ones, communication is everything. I went from being hopeless and depressed and alone to being an active and hopeful part of a vibrant community around the world. It is immense!
What needs to happen to make spelling more accessible to others?
People in positions of power need to take this seriously. Communication is a human right. Imagine never being able to communicate with anyone in a reliable or meaningful way. It is torture. And anyone who denies access to communication is complicit in prolonging that torture. I know that is intense, but it is true.
And it is important to make it within the reach of all income levels. It is currently not easy to get financial support on the scale needed to provide Spelling to Communicate training and practitioners and partners for all nonspeakers. This is a substantial problem that needs to be addressed. But accepting Spelling to Communicate and similar modalities more broadly will help with the structures needed to make this financial support a reality.
2 thoughts on “Spellers in the Spotlight”
Wonderful,I am so proud of you Danny,what a great event for you to be able to take to the stage and show the world how you and other speller can now take part in so many ways that up to now was not possible. Good luck.XXXX
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Wow. *Congratulations Danny!* Awesome! I am so proud to know you. Thank you for what you bring to the world.
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