Documentary filmmakers dream of having the opportunity that Freedom Machines has afforded us, to give voice to people with powerful stories to tell.
To say that our understanding of disability changed during the making of the film is an understatement. During the five years of researching and producing Freedom Machines we came to see what disability rights advocates have been saying for decades: human ability is best understood as a continuum of physical, cognitive, and emotional capabilities. Dividing this rich spectrum into categories like “normal” and “abnormal” is not only unrealistic, but detrimental to our understanding of who we are as human beings. As Floyd Stewart puts it, “If you live long enough, you’ll be disabled.”
We are indebted to Floyd and dozens of others throughout the United States, from age eight to eighty-three, who opened their doors to our cameras and questions, who let us witness the undeniable value of technology in enabling them to participate in the mainstream of life, whether in the classroom, in the office, or on the soccer field. They also allowed us, even invited us, to document the consequences of not having those tools of technology.
We hope that Freedom Machines will shed light on the role of technology as its power and presence increase in our society. We are grateful to the scientists and engineers who welcomed us into their labs and classrooms to explore the dynamic interplay between their creativity and the inspiration they draw from people with disabilities, people who have intimate knowledge of technology’s shortcomings as well as its potential.
Now it’s time for Freedom Machines to become a tool. The filmmakers’ great hope is that the work will be useful and that it will inform, spark discussion as well as action, and help to reveal the vast, untapped potential of many lives.
From our hands to yours,
— Jamie Stobie and Janet Cole