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When Dr. Gretchen Berland gave video cameras to three Los Angeles residents in wheelchairs and asked them to film their daily lives, she wasn’t sure what they would capture.

In the end, after nearly two years and 212 hours of tape, Galen Buckwalter, Ernie Wallengren and Vicki Elman did far more than accomplish Berland’s goal of providing care givers, policy makers and health care professionals insight into life on wheels for 1.6 million Americans.

The resulting one-hour documentary provides frank and dignified self-portraits of three wildly divergent people using wit and humor to fight their way in a world that is often cruelly unaccommodating. “Even though the film started out as a way of understanding the experience of being in a wheelchair, in the end, it’s really about life,” says Berland. “It’s not about feeling sorry for someone with a disability.”

The Project

Format: Documentary Feature
Producer, Writer, Director: Gretchen Berland
Featured Cast: Galen Buckwalter, Ernie Wallengren and Vicki Elman
Funding Provided By: The Suzanne Nora Johnson and David G. Johnson Foundation, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Betsy and Frank Karel, The Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, The Yale University Art Gallery, and The Jane Marcher Foundation
Distributor: American Public Television, THIRTEEN
Status: Available on DVD and on PBS