American Masters: Becoming Helen Keller

American Masters: Becoming Helen Keller

Thu, 01/12/2023 - 8:00pm - 9:30pm

Helen Keller portrait, 1905.

Credit: Courtesy of Library of Congress

Alt text: Black and white portrait of Helen Keller from the chest up

American Masters examines one of the 20th century’s human rights pioneers.

This documentary rediscovers the complex life and legacy of author and activist Helen Keller (1880-1968), who was deaf and blind since childhood, exploring how she used her celebrity and wit to advocate for social justice, particularly for women, workers, people with disabilities and people living in poverty. American Masters: Becoming Helen Keller airs Thursday, January 12 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

American Masters tells Keller’s story through rarely seen photographs, archival film clips, and interviews with historians, scholars, and disability rights advocates. Narrated by author, psychotherapist, and disability rights advocate Rebecca Alexander, the film features on-camera performances from Tony- and Emmy Award-winning actor Cherry Jones reading Keller’s writings. Actor and dancer Alexandria Wailes provides American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation of Keller’s words with all other ASL interpretation by writer and rapper Warren “WAWA” Snipe. The program also features audio description by National Captioning Institute and closed captioning by VITAC.

American Masters is committed to access for the documentary. The series website will have an accessible landing page for the film, including tools for changing color contrast and text size. An additional version of the film with extended audio description will also be available to stream. Marketing efforts for Becoming Helen Keller also integrate ASL, audio description, and captions.

Watch a preview of the show (audio described):

Watch a clip on Helen's Keller's use of oral communication (audio  described)

This screening event is part of Dialogue on Disability, a partnership between WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies - in conjunction with the Herman and Margaret Schwartz Community Series. The weeklong initiative, which runs January 9-15, is designed to stimulate community dialogue about the perspectives and abilities of people with physical, developmental, and intellectual disabilities. Dialogue on Disability is supported by the Fred L. Emerson Foundation with additional support from The Golisano Foundation.