A Big Year for New York Member Jason DaSilva

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In the wake of his first feature film, New York member Jason DaSilva, 35, has been lauded with superlatives and praise by some of the country’s most heralded voices. Among many favorable reviews for his documentary When I Walk, The New York Times applauded his “uncompromising intelligence” and the Hollywood Reporter cheered his “strength and reliance.”

Jason DaSilva

His movie about his life with MS has won numerous awards at film festivals across the continent, including the Grand Jury Prize at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival. It was even selected to kickoff PBS’ POV series of documentaries, making its national television debut on June 23.

“It’s definitely been a one-up on everything I’ve done before,” he says.

Yet, perhaps the most meaningful feedback has come from the steady flow of emails and Facebook comments thanking DaSilva for telling his story so candidly. It’s been an enlightening experience for DaSilva.

“I didn’t realize that making yourself vulnerable and putting yourself out there would really help other people confront what they were going through,” he says. “Just by emails that I get, people really feel good about it because they can tell their own stories. Hearing my story makes it more possible for others to tell theirs.

DaSilva encourages the people who contact him to find outlets for their emotions. “The real thing people can do is be advocates for people with disabilities,” he says.

DaSilva is not just providing lip service to that idea — he has a long resume as an advocate. He took part in United Spinal’s first-ever Roll on Capitol Hill in 2011 and attended again this year. He filmed an op-ed for the New York Times in January 2013 highlighting the woeful state of public transit in New York City, and he has long-championed AXS Map, a crowd-sourced tool he designed for sharing reviews on the wheelchair accessibility of businesses and places.

“It’s keeping me ludicrously busy,” he says with a laugh.

Being that busy would be hard for anyone, but DaSilva’s MS only adds to the challenge. He says he manages thanks to a horde of interns and a solid support group. He also thanked PBS for being very supportive and going above and beyond what was required. Managing all of his projects has shown him many ways he can be more efficient in future endeavors.

Asked what those future endeavors may be, the normally effusive DaSilva grows discreet. “I’m not going to talk about it yet,” he teases. “There’s something in the pipeline, but I can’t say just yet.”

When I Walk is available for free online viewing through PBS until July 23 at www.pbs.org/pov/wheniwalk. To get involved with, or learn more about AXS Map, visit www.axsmap.com.

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