Role/Roll of A Lifetime: The Ellen Stohl Story . . . From Paralyzed to Playboy to Parent & Beyond

by admin on February 15th, 2011

filed under Uncategorized




Specific Project: production and distribution (in SCI physical rehab centers physical therapy and university classrooms as well as through a major cable television outlet) of Roll/Role of a Lifetime, a 44 minute documentary on the life of Ellen Stohl who, despite an SCI at the age of nineteen, defied her own expectations by: becoming the first disabled woman to appear in a Playboy pictorial; obtaining a BA in Communications, an MS Educational Psychology & Counseling, and a K-8 multi-subject clear credential; touring and lecturing world-wide on sexuality and body image as they relate specifically to physical disability; operating a highly-successful business advocating for disabled rights and acceptance; owning and extensively renovating her own home; at the age of 39 becoming pregnant, giving birth to a daughter and now raising that daughter while continuing to pursue both her artistic and professional goals.

Need/Problem: lack of accurate information on the realities of living with a disability such as SCI have resulted in an overwhelming number of people with disabilities failing to recognize or even attempt to achieve their potential as active, productive, vital and fully-realized members of society. This is especially true in terms of returning veterans with disabilities.  Along with the trauma of war, they are often left with misguided beliefs about what their lives can be now that they have a disability. Core issues faced by all people who acquire a disability include recovering their sense of sexuality, self-esteem and position in society as an equal member.

Alexa Schriempf in her article, (Re)fusing the Amputated Body, writes that, “Disability is not an individual, biological condition; it is a social condition” (Schriempf 2001, 59) She supports this notion by citing Michael Oliver, British academic, author, and disability rights activist. Oliver contends that: “disability is wholly and exclusively social. . . . disability [has] nothing to do with the body; it is a consequence of social oppression” (Oliver 1996, 35).

Schriempf furthers her cause by evaluating the impact this kind of thinking has for people with disabilities: “It wasn’t my body that was responsible for all my difficulties. It was external factors, barriers constructed by the society in which I live. I was being dis-abled—my capabilities and opportunities were being restricted—by prejudice, discrimination, inaccessible environments and inadequate support. Even more importantly, if all the problems had been created by society, then surely society could un-create them” (Crow 1996, 206).

Solution: To make accurate information available to the able-bodied as well as the disabled that addresses the realities of living with a disability by profiling the actual experience of one individual who has overcome her own misconceptions about this disability to realize her full potential on a personal, artistic and career basis.

Measurable Outcomes: to demonstrably improve each viewer’s understanding of the reality of living with SCI and, for those viewers who live with that disability, to inspire and renew their own commitment to achieving their fullest potential as active, productive, vital and fully-realized members of our society.


How Outcomes Will Be Measured: viewers in both physical rehab centers and classrooms will be surveyed prior to seeing the documentary to establish their baseline understanding of what it is like to live with a disability such as SCI. After seeing the documentary, viewers will be asked to complete a follow-up survey to determine any changes that have occurred in their perception of what is possible for people who live with SCI as a result of what they saw/heard in the documentary.

Project Funding: This documentary will be funded by YOU and other concerned citizens and organizations that want to help create an equal playing field for all of society’s members especially veterans and other people with disabilities who continue to experience social discrimination and oppression.


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