Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival

the 18th Annual Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival OCT 15-16, 2021. Lost Reel Short Film Showcase AUG 16-SEPT 15, 2021.

In 2004, Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD) staffer William Greer had an idea: “We need to create a film festival to counter negative stereotypes about people with disabilities and to celebrate positive portrayals of disability culture. Since cinema plays an important role in American culture, film is an effective medium to reach and engage a large and diverse audience.” That year, CTD held its first annual Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival, screening and discussing films that illustrate how well, and how poorly, people with disabilities are portrayed in motion pictures. It was the first film festival in Texas with an explicit focus on cross-disability films. Since its foundation, it has grown to be the longest running and most successful disability film festival in the state.

The Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival broke ground from its first year. Attendees viewed the very first cinematic portrayal of disability: THE FAKE BEGGAR, an 1898 short by Thomas Edison. CTD also premiered SHATTERING STEREOTYPES ON MT. EVEREST. This documentary tells the story of the award-winning Team Everest '03, the first team of people with disabilities to reach the base camp of Mt. Everest. Gary Guller, the team leader and the first person with one arm to reach the top of Mt. Everest, introduced this film at the Festival.

Since its inception, Cinema Touching Disability audiences have enjoyed a wide variety of short and feature films, television series, and web series, from documentaries to animation pieces to silent films. In addition, CTD works each year to expand and reinvent the festival by bringing in special guests and incorporating extra features. In 2005, the Festival featured WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE?, preceded by an exclusive interview with star Darlene Cates. Several years later, Dr. Temple Grandin granted CTD an exclusive interview, which the festival screened in conjunction with 2009 feature TEMPLE GRANDIN. Then 2013, CTD (in partnership with Golden Arm Media) reunited with Dr. Grandin for a second interview on her latest publication, The Autistic Brain (above). Both interviews earned CTD prestigious Barbara Jordan Media Awards.

Noteable Cinema Touching Disability guests include actor and activist RJ Mitte (2019), Tim Sharp, Australian creator of Laser Beak Man (2010) and Sloke-One, an Austin-based graffiti artist who gave a live graffiti demonstration and fielded questions in conjunction with the screening of GETTING UP: THE TEMPT ONE STORY (2013). In 2015, we welcomed the stars of both of our features to the Festival: Jessica Cox, the world's only armess pilot and star of RIGHT FOOTED and Lizzie Velasquez of A BRAVE HEART: THE LIZZIE VELASQUEZ STORY.

In addition to celebrity guest appearance, audiences also enjoy live music and wrap-around events at Cinema Touching Disability. In conjunction with 2016 feature DEAF JAM, we organized an ASL + spoken poetry slam with local deaf, deaf-blind, and hearing poets and essayists (below). We celebrated our 15h anniversary in 2018 with Tilly Jones, a teenage composer with multiple disabilities. Tilly came all the way from Australia to introduce her short film, TILLY'S SYMPHONY, and debut Marciac, a jazz piece she composed especially for us! For our 2019 focus on adaptive fashion, we held our own Adaptive Fashion Challenge, connecting local models with disabilities to local designers, in order to solve a clothing-related problem.

In 2007, CTD introduced the Student Film Competition to the Festival, giving high school and college students an opportunity to share their own viewpoints about disability through film. As the festival has grown in acclaim and as the competition has evolved, participation among young and emerging filmmakers has increased dramatically. Expanding the age range of entrants and incorporating an online submission system has allowed us to accept and screen short films from all over the world! The grand prizewinners in 2012, 2014, and 2016 for example, came all the way from Iran, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, respectively.

With the pandemic in 2020, we took a chance on bringing Cinema Touching Disability into the virtual space, presenting not one, but two cinematic events celebrating disability. First, we launched CTDFF: Online!, a showcase of ten selections from our short film competition that did not place among the finalists, but were outstanding nonetheless. We’re bringing this online mini-fest back in 2021, re-branded as The Lost Reel Short Film Showcase! A month later, the 17th annual Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival took place as scheduled, also online, with finalists from our Short Film Competition (the best of 158 entries from 28 countries), featured selections, and filmmaker Q&As. The online environment allowed us to bring together films, viewers, and artists from all over the world in brand new ways. While we are thrilled to return to an in-person Festival soon, the online component is here to stay!

After eighteen years, many awards (see full list below), and countless feature and short films, Cinema Touching Disability has found a happy home in the Austin film and disability communities. There is still much to be done to break down the barriers that face filmmakers with disabilities and the disability community in general, and we are proud to be at the forefront of these efforts.

Past Festivals

2020 Film Festival
2019 Film Festival
2018 Film Festival
2017 Film Festival
2016 Film Festival
2015 Film Festival
2014 Film Festival
2013 Film Festival

Cinema Touching Disability Awards


Barbara Jordan Media Award for Special Contribution by an Organization (for second interview with Dr. Temple Grandin, with Golden Arm Media)


Barbara Jordan Media Award for Special Contribution by an Organization (for interview with Dr. Temple Grandin)


Austin Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities Media Award


Austin Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities Media Award


Barbara Jordan Media Award for Special Contribution by an Organization

Austin Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities Media Award

Film Fest Newsletter

Sign up for our e-newsletter to stay up to date with the Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival & Short Film Competition.

Subscribe to CTDFF News!

Current issue: Cinema Touching Disability Passes now available!