Rachel IS

It wasn’t until Charlotte Glynn was working in Italy, as a nanny to a 6 year old with Down’s syndrome, that she fully grasped something she had previously taken for granted: how her mother raised her disabled sister, Rachel.

Her mother, Jane, had just called her to note that Rachel was turning 21, which meant her mother would lose all the state and federal support that she had been relying on to raise her. She was at a loss as to what to do.

Although Rachel is developmentally disabled, she wants what most people her age want—to move out of her mother’s house and live independently.

The relationship between Rachel and her mother is difficult and yet Jane doesn’t have the resources to insure Rachel’s independence.

With recent death of her father and the difficult period her mother and sister were going through, Glynn, a filmmaker, decided it was time to go home. Then she decided to chronicle the year of transition for Rachel and her mother.

She filmed everyday, capturing all their emotions, struggles and successes.

The process was not easy. Not only was putting her family on camera everyday difficult but getting the film financed and made was also a challenge. But her desire to share their story kept her going and now, 10 years after she first started, the documentary Rachel Is is premiering on PBS World Channel.

Rachel, now 31, lives independently in an apartment in Coraopolis and works in McKees Rocks and is happy to have the independence that she and  mother worked hard for, says Glynn. “She really loves to work. To have a purpose. She’s driven by the same purpose we all have in life,” Glynn adds.

Glynn wants the film to open people’s eyes about those with disability—to see them for who they are in the context of their condition. “The one thing I want people to take away from this film is to think about people with intellectual impairment as fully formed human beings,” Glynn says.  “I wanted to make a film to show Rachel as a full and complex person. I want people to watch the film and bring the perspective the next time they meet somebody disabled– “oh, maybe we don’t see the world the same way.””

Rachel IS is available on DVD and Vimeo.

Leah Lizarondo is a food advocate, writer and speaker. She is also the co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, an organization that seeks to eliminate food waste to make an impact on hunger and the environment. She is the Chief Veghacker, recipe creator and curator at The Brazen Kitchen, where she writes about food and food policy. She writes about the intersection of food, health, innovation and policy.