6 user 2 critic

The Ability Exchange (2016)

"The Ability Exchange" is a documentary about an innovative Disability Studies class at NYU Tandon where engineering students and adults with cerebral palsy learn to communicate, connect, and cultivate their abilities by making movies.


Bing Wang


Bing Wang
2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »




An intimate documentary film that delves into an innovative Disability Studies course at NYU Tandon where engineering students and self-advocates with cerebral palsy team up to make movies. This observational "empathy engine" illustrates the trajectory of personal growth and bonding that these first time filmmakers experience in the classroom and beyond, during a journey of which the line between ability and disability gets blurred, traditionally assigned roles of "filmmakers" and "subjects" blend, and the definitions of "normalcy" and "inspiration" are challenged. "The Ability Exchange" invites the viewer to reflect on what it takes to understand and appreciate a person, a community, a culture, and how this exchange of abilities and perspectives empowers lives.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A documentary about disability, inclusion, and empathy in the classroom and beyond




Did You Know?


About 56.7 million people-19 percent of the U.S. population-had a disability in 2010. However, characters with disabilities are "invisible" on major broadcast networks. Of 647 regular characters who appear on scripted prime-time television, only five (less than 1%) have disabilities, and these roles are generally played by actors without physical disabilities. The disability community needs the unique, accurate and compelling perspectives of people with disabilities (PwDs) on media. See more »

User Reviews

The Ability Exchange
10 November 2016 | by beckyboeshaarSee all my reviews

"The Ability Exchange," mirroring its subjects, approaches the viewer cordially, like a new classmate destined to become a friend. This vérité documentary observes semester-long projects undertaken by NYU students and their consultants with cerebral palsy as they team up to make films that will uncover different truths about the perceptions of "ability" and "normalcy."

The film offers up several moments of poignant discomfort as we watch the project teams maneuver through taboo topics and well-meaning missteps in communication. But these moments, when absorbed into the context of the whole film, remind us that all of our strengths shine brightest when we are engaged in a mutual project and our shortcomings serve as unique portals through which to view our common desire to understand and be understood. Most importantly, throughout Mr. Wang's film, the audience is uniquely positioned to experience and analyze how people relate to each other and relish in the joy of genuine connection.

This film speaks with a loving, patient voice and leaves you hopeful for a more loving, patient future.

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10 September 2016 (USA) See more »

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