Part two of our special feature on CCH’s summer intern, Tristen Onofry

What would you like to tell the world about your level of ability?  

I am an undergraduate at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) studying Multimedia Studies: Film, Video & New Media. It was not easy getting to the point where I am today, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and community. My family fought for me to be in full-ed classes to receive a standard high school diploma. In elementary school, my dad made me a hat pointer using a stylus attached to a rod. This gave me independence and the ability to control an iPad so I could stay in classes to learn with my peers. It propelled my interest in web and game design technology in middle school. While I enjoyed math, I did not have a way to write down each problem until my friend, an IT tech for the Palm Beach County School District, showed me an application called Math Paper. Math Paper allowed me to take AP Physics in high school. Another application I use is Splashtop, a remote-access application that gives me the independence to work on a computer. I thought IT was my future career since I received web and game design certificates and became an internet business associate in middle school. However, once getting to high school and becoming part of TV production, my creativity bloomed into a drive to make films. I made news stories and short films that led me to filmmaking. I also took graphic design classes to better understand Photoshop and Illustrator, which furthered my creativity in repairing old photos and animate pictures.

What are your goals, and what kind of devices would help you reach those goals? 

I want to create a feature film that shines a light on how disabilities affect people living with them. To successfully reach this goal, I needed the experience of making a full-length film — how to direct, shoot, edit, and budget it – to understand the process fully. This goal is important because I wish to spread awareness of the injustices and hardships many people with disabilities face. My journey has taught me to appreciate my achievements and all that I have overcome to be able to share my story with everyone who may read this post. Now, I want to share the stories of those unable to reach a platform of their own.

Do you agree or disagree with laws and norms concerning people’s levels of ability?

I tend to disagree with the laws and norms used to judge others’ abilities. Understanding how easy it is to predict someone’s ability vs. getting to know the individual is a constant struggle. People who have a disability must go beyond the average person to have a chance of making friendships and becoming independent. I watched so many people look at me or say hi and then pass me before I could respond. It was extremely difficult to have this happen while I was in full-ed classes and taking AP Physics in high school. This made me feel that my efforts had been unappreciated. These norms can create issues with how the world sees my abilities and views the hard work that I put into everything I do. I aspire to share and communicate stories and perspectives to help bring awareness and unity by communicating past experiences. I hope to help develop and have the next generation be more inclusive and understanding of everyone, regardless of their abilities.