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"Talk With Your Hands" Film Screening

The discourse surrounding the topics of disability and accessibility has become more and more resounding as our society is further driven towards inclusivity. Yet, this discourse is normally overwhelmed by the voices of the abled. Talk With Your Hands works to break this trend in a short, yet powerful ten minutes. Through a series of personal accounts, informative dialogue, and captivating poetry, the film explores the idea of communication, making sense of both the individual and the global unit.


Editor in Chief Emily Claus welcomes the audience to our film screening


During their interviews, the individuals in the film who have visual and auditory disabilities mention this dimension of themselves last, using language such as “and I also happen to be blind.” Often, when abled persons describe someone with blindness or deafness, they use the person’s loss of sensory ability as his/her defining characteristic, as opposed to all of the other unique perspectives and abilities of the person. One young man in the film reflects that being unclouded by the initial visualization of a new acquaintance, having to rely on other components of the person—their voice, choice of words, etc.—help one to develop “a more general impression of a person.” Conversely, sign language relies entirely on what is seen, and a lot can be said about an individual based on their movements—one woman signs that “how a person uses their body can be incredibly eloquent.” Each of the individuals shared about the most important way they can build a full picture of an individual–the importance of seeing the full usage of the speaker’s body or, oppositely, the importance of hearing the speaker’s voice. The film also includes a poem that intermixes through the film and effectively conveys these differences in elements of perception. Sometimes the poem is verbalized through English or Mandarin, and sometimes it is displayed with text on screen, or it is shared through sign language.

The power of the voice and the body is essential to communication. Even with language barriers, we may understand the emotions and ideas of each other via tone of voice or facial/body expression. This is likely why one woman in the film who is deaf remarks that eye contact is incredibly important and special. Also significant is the uniqueness of human language—other animals do use different ways to communicate, however, within our single species, language is remarkably diverse. Not only do we speak in different tongues, dialects, and accents, but we also use different modalities to speak. Speech itself is spread throughout the human brain instead of localized, reflecting how important this skill is to us. Being able to use different modalities to speak opens up more non-linear, expanded communication, and thus adds a more dynamic three dimensionality to life.

Through the film we, the viewers, float down a river in Cambridge where we experience a poem in many forms and are provoked to think about disability in different ways. The line that resonated most with me was a redefinition of how we think about disability: “Having a sensory disability is not having a lack of ability, its having a lack of access to information.” With this in mind, we must make full use of all of the forms of communication we humans are afforded in order to break down barriers of dialogue.


The editors of Exceptions Journal at the film screening


Talk With Your Hands leaves viewers with new insights and a drive to find out more about expanding one’s own communicative abilities. It intertwines the musings of individuals who are very different, yet similar as humans yearning for engagement. Let us reflect on these beautiful stories and scenes to further our dynamic interactions with one another.