Dan Habib's Film About Inclusion Airs Nationwide On PBS

CONCORD, NH – NPPA member Dan Habib's film "Including Samuel" is scheduled to be broadcast nationwide on public television in October as part of National Disability Awareness Month, and the showing of his documentary is being supported by the National Inclusion Project and CVS Caremark All Kids Can.

"Including Samuel" is Habib's film about his son, who five years ago at the age of four was in a medically-induced coma, had developed complications following a tonsillectomy operation, and had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. One of Samuel's doctors encouraged Habib, who was working as a photojournalist at the time, to share with the world the story of what it's like to be the parent of a child who has chronic health conditions.

The film that Habib ended up making documents their family's efforts to include Samuel in every facet of their lives, highlighting the issue of inclusion for people with disabilities, and exploring the social and educational benefits and challenges of including children with disabilities in the regular classroom. (See an extended trailer here)

"As a director and as a father, making the film not only helped me face my fears, but also my biases," Habib said.

"Including Samuel" will air on PBS World on October 9. (See listings here)

There are more than 6 million children in the States with disabilities so significant that they are limited in their access to public education, Habib says. Although inclusion is an accepted practice in special education, only about one-half of students with disabilities are fully included in regular classrooms in America.

Habib said that although President Obama's stimulus plan included an addition $12 billion for special education funding, it's not clear how local districts will spend the money and whether inclusion will be a part of their plan.

This week BusinessWeek writer Anne Newman used "Including Samuel" to ask the question of whether children with disabilities strain or strengthen schools, and the discussion of whether taxpayers should shoulder the burden of the extra cost of including children with special needs into the regular curriculum. Habib is quoted in the story, countering with "How can ... anyone predict child will contribute to our society?" As an example, he wonders whether anyone could have argued that Bernie Madoff would add more to the world than physicist Stephen Hawking (disabled by ALS), Albert Einstein (who may have had Asperger Syndrome), Hellen Keller (blind and deaf), and Vincent Van Gogh (mentally ill). "People are not limited by their disability," Habib told BusinessWeek, "they are limited by lack of opportunity."

The former director of photography for The Concord Monitor who is now a filmmaker in residence at the University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability says that more than 20 national organizations have partnered with him to "get the word out" to more than 10 million people, asking them to watch the film and host viewing parties of the broadcast or the DVD.

Habib has also created downloadable Screening Toolkits to help people who are planning a screening party for the film, and the kits come in an adult and teen version that include discussion questions, background information, and actions they can take to support inclusion.

There will also be a National Youth Inclusion Summit in Washington, DC, in early January where young people from around the country will learn about grass roots advocacy, get multimedia training, and create their own "viral" inclusion campaign, Habib said. Partners in this effort include the Girl Scouts of the USA and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

"Including Samuel" will also be re-released in October with new features, Habib said, including audio descriptions, extras, and 17 language interpretations.

In 2006 and 2008, Habib was named the national Photography Editor of the Year for papers with a circulation under 100,000. He oversaw the photo essay by Monitor staff photographer Preston Gannaway called "Remember Me," which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography. During his career Habib has been a judge of the Pulitzer Prizes, Pictures of the Year, Best of Photojournalism and White House News Photographer's Association. The award-winning storyteller joined NPPA in 1985.