Villanova Student Documentary Provides Inside Look at the Lives of Students with Disabilities

“Coming off the DL,” the story of two young men with cerebral palsy, aims to break down the stereotypes of people with disabilities

Frank Kineavy and Nick Gaynor are student managers of the Villanova men’s and women’s basketball teams

VILLANOVA, Pa. – In a new documentary, “Coming off the DL,” Villanova University freshman Frank Kineavy, incoming freshman Nick Gaynor, and 15 student filmmakers aim to dispel the stereotypes of people with disabilities. Frank and Nick, student managers of the Villanova men’s and women’s basketball teams, respectively, have cerebral palsy. While their circumstances and paths to Villanova differ, the stories of these two young men, presented together, show viewers that when provided the chance to fully participate in campus life, students with disabilities can enrich the experiences of everyone around them.

“Coming off the DL” (or, “disabled list,” as it is known in the sports world) is a product of Villanova’s Social Justice Documentary course, offered through the Department of Communication. The course allows students from all majors the unique opportunity to learn about filmmaking through hands-on training in real-world situations, and then use their experience to create documentaries that explore important issues facing society. Completed during the spring semester, “Coming off the DL” is narrated by Villanova men’s basketball player Taylor King. The film features an entirely original score composed by a graduate student at the University.

“We hope this film shows that if people with disabilities are given an opportunity, the community is better served,” said Stephen McWilliams, one of the course instructors, as well as the Director of International Students and Human Services at Villanova University. “These young men constantly overcome physical barriers, and are impacting the lives of those who give them a chance.”

Over the course of the short film, viewers will meet Frank Kineavy, a dedicated college student who uses a keyboard to communicate, and Nick Gaynor, an outgoing high school senior who will attend Villanova in the fall. Both Frank and Nick use wheelchairs to get around. The student filmmakers focused on both the routine daily activities of the young men as well as their roles as team managers. Gaynor, who has attended basketball games at Villanova from a young age, was contacted last year by women’s coach Harry Perretta to manage his team. A short time later, Kineavy was offered the opportunity to work with Coach Jay Wright and the men’s basketball team. Both worked as managers of their teams in high school.

“This film is a great tribute to Frank and Nick and their families,” McWilliams said. “It demonstrates the power of the human spirit and the awesome ability of love to conquer all obstacles that we face.”

Cerebral palsy, also referred to as CP, is a term used to describe a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring during fetal development; before, during, or shortly after birth; or during infancy. Depending on which areas of the brain have been damaged, one or more of the following may occur: muscle tightness or spasticity; involuntary movement; disturbance in gait or mobility, difficulty in swallowing and problems with speech.

Last year, in the first semester of the Social Justice Documentary course, students created a documentary – “Price of Life” – that addressed the challenges of urban violence, recidivism and unemployment. The film told the story of a man, Robert Childs, who was able to change his life with the help of the National Comprehensive Center for Fathers (NCCF) in Philadelphia. The student filmmakers used the film to speak out about the importance of leading a positive life. 

Villanova University, a co-educational Roman Catholic institution, was founded by the Order of Saint Augustine in 1842. A premier institution of higher education, Villanova provides a comprehensive education rooted in the liberal arts; a shared commitment to the Augustinian ideals of truth, unity and love; and a community dedicated to service to others. A wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered through the University’s four colleges: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering and the College of Nursing, as well as the Villanova School of Law. With a total enrollment that surpasses 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students, Villanova is the oldest and largest Catholic university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.