Commentary: Finding Dory, an Inclusive and Accessible Movie All Around

July 5, 2016

Without a doubt, Finding Dory is one of this summer’s biggest movies. It is the sequel to Pixar’s Finding Nemo released in 2003, which was wildly popular with people of all ages. A lot of reviews rave about how beautifully both films deal with and discuss disability. Even more exciting is the fact that thanks to the Disney Movies Anywhere app, users who are blind or visually impaired can enjoy the film with audio description. By simply downloading the app on my iPhone (and using my ear buds so I wouldn’t distract other moviegoers), I was able to fully enjoy the film this holiday weekend.

One of the hardest things for parents of children with disabilities is letting their kids venture into unfamiliar territory and experience new things. As someone who grew up with a disability, I now understand that parents are naturally afraid their children will get hurt, or that others will make fun of them. These ideas – although well intentioned – can lead to isolation and overprotection. Both Nemo, who has an undersized fin, and Dory, who has short-term memory loss, show their parents they are perfectly capable of going out into the world and being independent. Along the way, Nemo and dory encounter many challenges that seem insurmountable and even dangerous, but this is the only way they learn to adapt to their respective disabilities.

Learning how to cope with a disability from a young age is extremely important. In Finding Dory, Dory’s parents tell her early on about her short-term memory loss, and that she should tell this to people if she ever needs help or gets lost. They also teach her coping strategies – like following a trail of seashells – to find her way back home. Being assertive and explaining to others about my disability has helped me tremendously throughout my life. As people with disabilities, we are the ones who know best what we need, and it is important for us to learn early on how to seek assistance if and when we need it.

In Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, both characters and those around them learn about acceptance and to have a positive attitude about disability. Nemo thinks of his undersized fin as a lucky fin, and this helps the other characters feel at ease about his disability. Nemo and Dory learn to compensate for their disabilities, and this leads everyone else to focus on their abilities. All too often, people associate disability with negative connotations, and as a result focus on what we cannot do. I strongly believe that acceptance of disability and diversity in general must be taught to children from an early age. This can lead to more inclusion and respect towards people with disabilities.

Kudos to Disney and Pixar for having positive portrayals about disability in their films. Children should be taught about disabilities and diversity in general from a young age in order to learn about tolerance and acceptance, and I applaud Pixar and Disney for doing just that. These were just a few of the references to disability in Finding Dory and Finding Nemo – I won’t spoil the films for those of you who haven’t watched them! I sincerely hope that other companies will follow in Disney’s footsteps and begin portraying disability in a more positive and realistic manner.

My hat goes off to Disney for including audio description of Finding Nemo and Finding Dory in their Disney Movies Anywhere app. This certainly made a huge difference and allowed me to enjoy Finding Dory as much as my family and friends with sight. I will review this app in a later post – stay tuned!

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