What is the disability visibility project and how did it get started?
Disability Visibility Project: A Community Partnership with StoryCorps is a year-long grassroots campaign encouraging people with disabilities to record their stories at StoryCorps (3 locations: Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco and a mobile tour) celebrating the upcoming 25th anniversary of the ADA in 2015.
As a public radio nerd, I love listening to NPR and one of my favorite segments on Morning Edition are stories from StoryCorps. Last year StoryCorps San Francisco had an event at the Contemporary Jewish Museum where they brought together the actual people featured in some of their most popular stories. At the event the presenter talked about community partnerships and it made me think about the disability community. I went up to someone from StoryCorps and asked whether they had any current community partnerships with a disability organization and they said no. I was really surprised since there’s such a rich disability community in the Bay Area. I thought this was a golden opportunity to do something.
What motivated you to initiate the project?
After living in San Francisco for over 10 years, I’ve been so lucky to be in contact with some amazing people–activists, academics, parents, professionals, artists, whatever. I know that a lot of national disability organizations are planning some major events in 2015 and I thought this could be my small way of giving back to the disability community. Our history rarely shows up in high school textbooks. We have to value our stories and document our culture in as many ways as possible. StoryCorps provides a platform for people to do that by having a conversation with a friend. It’s a simple act that most people do everyday. Those recordings will be archived at the Library of Congress which is a pretty cool thing.
How do people get involved?
For people in the SF Bay Area, Atlanta and Chicago, I would go to StoryCorps’ website and book an appointment through their reservation system. When people make their reservation online, they should mention the Disability Visibility Project in the Notes section of the online form so the recording is tagged. If there aren’t any appointments that available, I’d consider joining their wait list. For people who don’t live in those 3 areas, I’d periodically check their Mobile Tour to see if there are any future dates in their region. For more details on how to participate and updates on the project, they can check our website or join our Facebook group.
What kinds of stories are you looking to record?
Some people asked whether they have to talk about the ADA or not and my answer is it’s completely optional. The Disability Visibility Project is using the ADA as a springboard to have people with disabilities reflect about their past, present and future. Everyone has an interesting story to tell. It can be about your passions and hobbies, your personal life as a sibling, parent or spouse or something about the work you do. Much of it might depend on your interview partner and what you two share together when it comes to the disability experience. People don’t have to talk about activism, disability rights or legislation like the ADA or section 504 of the Rehab Act but they could if those topics are important to them.Why is this project needed?
This is an overused word, but I think the Disability Visibility Project empowers people. Rather than waiting for historians to identify and document events that are ‘significant,’ StoryCorps and this project encourages people to decide what’s important. All people can create and record history and all people have stories that are worth sharing and preserving. What’s exciting to me is that when people make tag their recordings a part of the Disability Visibility Project, those stories will be part of a distinct collection that can be searchable by the public at the Library of Congress. The mission of our project is simple: ‘Recording disability history, one story at a time.’