GRANDE PRAIRIE (660 NEWS) — When she was 17 years old, Kiesha Mastrodimos was in a car accident that changed her life forever.
Paralyzed from the chest down, Mastrodimos has spent the last eight years becoming accustomed to life in a wheelchair.
Now, alongside Grande Prairie filmmaker Mariah Braun, she is sharing her story with the world.
“ABLE” is a new documentary by Braun, starring Mastrodimos, which highlights the struggles faced by differently abled people in rural areas.
“Bumpy roads, narrow doors — or doors that don’t open wide enough — and stairs, they’re all everyday things that can create a problem,” said Mastrodimos.
Since 2013 she has learned to navigate life in her wheelchair, but Mastrodimos says her story has not been without struggle.
“It’s okay to be mad, it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to feel those feelings,” says Mastrodimos. “You’re mourning a life. The life that you had is over, the past one, and you have to grieve.”
Through extensive physiotherapy, she has been able to regain use of her arms and wrists. Mastrodimos says that even booking a hotel room can be difficult as the definition of “accessible” is not universal.
“Guess who they ask about wheelchair accessibility? They ask for the perspective of an able bodied person,” she said. “That doesn’t work for everybody.”
The film’s director Braun says that she recently attended a conference on accessibility, a new experience as a self-identified able-bodied person. She says it opened her eyes to the different things that people who rely on devices like walkers or wheelchairs have to overcome.
“You think, okay this doesn’t work, this needs to change,” said Braun. “I’d have to go two blocks just to avoid one [inaccessible] area. It was pretty eye opening.”
Braun received funding for the film through the TELUS STORYHIVE project, which granted her $20,000 for the production. The applications were for films that focused on telling the story of local heroes, from filmmakers in Alberta and British Columbia.
After hearing about Mastrodimos’ story, the pair connected and decided to collaborate on the documentary. They have a big goal for ABLE.
“We want to challenge traditional, systematized thinking through this film,” said Braun. “Kiesha is very open and transparent and she has chosen to be vulnerable about these things to share it with other people in the world and provide people with another perspective on life.”
Mastrodimos hopes the documentary inspires those who are facing similar hurdles as she has.
“You are not a burden because you need help,” she said. “You can’t choose the hand that you’re dealt, but you can choose how you play it.”
The film is still in production, with filming expected to wrap up by the end of the summer. For more information, and to follow their production, check out Able on Instagram.