Producing Political Documentaries During the Pandemic

During the pandemic, two documentaries were produced and launched by advocacy groups on the question of mobility of disabled people in New York City. NYC’s transit system is notorious for its inaccessibility as, out of over 400 subway stations, less than 30% are accessible—and many of which are only accessible in one direction. To add to the situation, elevators found in the ADA accessible stations are regularly malfunctioning.

On Jan. 28, 2021 Victor Dias Rodriguez’s film “All Riders” was released. Filmed prior to the pandemic and through an intersectional mobility justice framework, the short film sheds light on the everyday difficulties that disabled people are facing on the subway and the unmet needs of riders by the Metropolitain Transportation Authority (MTA) and its inaccessible stations. The film follows the death in 2019 of Malaysia Goodson, a 22-year-old Black mother, while she was carrying her daughter’s stroller down the stairs of an inaccessible station.

Gearóid Dolan’s and Jessica Murray’s “The Biggest Obstacle” was released on June 9, 2021. The documentary follows the investigations of researcher and disability rights activist Jessica Murray as she examines accessibility in the New York City Transit System over a two year period. It discusses in depth the lawsuits against the MTA and documents the actions of the Elevator Action Group as well as protests.

Both films include many interviews with disabled riders, advocacy leaders, and government officials. Through the pandemic, the films sparked discussions and a renewed interest for the questions of mobility and fight for accessibility of NYC’s transit infrastructure as we were all immobilized. —Yan Grenier