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StoryCorps Looks To Record Disability Experience


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Members of the disability community can contribute stories to the Disability Visibility Project at StoryCorps' traveling booth in addition to locations in San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta. (StoryCorps)

Members of the disability community can contribute stories to the Disability Visibility Project at StoryCorps’ traveling booth in addition to locations in San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta. (StoryCorps)

As the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act approaches next year, a new project is launching to encourage people within the disability community to share their stories.

The effort known as the Disability Visibility Project is kicking off Monday as a community partnership with StoryCorps, a national nonprofit that allows everyday people to record casual, one-on-one conversations in an effort to preserve history. The recordings are frequently featured on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

StoryCorps’ recording booth in San Francisco is making sessions available between July 10 and Dec. 13 specifically for members of the disability community to record their stories. Additional times are expected to be added leading up to the ADA’s 25th anniversary in July 2015.

What’s more, recordings produced at StoryCorps’ booths in Chicago and Atlanta as well as through the organization’s MobileBooth, which travels to communities across the country, can also be tagged for inclusion in the project.

“The history of people with disabilities rarely appears in textbooks,” said Alice Wong who’s spearheading the effort. “I’ve had the good fortune to meet so many fascinating and amazing people with disabilities who have been fighting for disability rights for decades. I believe their stories and the stories of everyday Americans with disabilities should be preserved.”

For the Disability Visibility Project, Wong said she envisions people talking about how their lives have changed since the passage of the ADA, what they hope for people with disabilities in the future and other relevant topics.

Individuals who participate in StoryCorps go home with a broadcast-quality CD of their conversation. What’s more, all recordings are preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington and Wong said recordings made for the Disability Visibility Project will be identified as part of a distinct collection.

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Comments (20 Responses)

  1. vmgillen says:

    I enjoy the NPR broadcasts . . . this is a good idea. Still, does anyone else notice the photo doesn’t really show an “accessible” environment?

  2. Cari says:

    Makes me wonder how accessible the story booths and mobile booths are? Say big enough for 2 scooter users comfortably or two people plus an interpreter. Is the lighting any better than wha’ts shown?

  3. Linda says:

    This is a great idea. How will persons who are deaf, specifically those who use a signed language instead of a spoken language be able to be a visible, contributing part of this project? Will it be make accessible through the use of video recordings or interpreters?

  4. KA101 says:

    Yeah, it’s possible that one of the chairs could be moved, but that photo doesn’t look particularly inviting.

    Nevertheless, I’d appreciate having a chat with these folks.

  5. Martha Moyer says:

    I wish StoryCorps could reach out throughout all the states. Unfortunately it seems Texas gets bypassed because it is the worst state for disabilities services but there are many good things going on. Here in San Antonio we never see conferences, adult disability meetings, training, employment seminars, research, or opportunities to share and learn….and at the age of 22 it seems everyone with a severe disability either ends up at home or in a daycare or day habilitation program. My son slept for over eight years in a daycare. He has autism, IDD, OCD, intermittent explosive disorder and paralyzed bowels due to institutional neglect. He is 40 years old. We need to spread our stories all over the country and hear what is happening. What I see is the closer the town is to the border; here it is Mexico, the fewer services and interest in serving the disabled. That is my take. Martha

  6. Pat Carver says:

    We had StoryCorps at the International Conference on Self-Determination in Detroit 2008. Got some great and varied interviews then due to the conference being cross disability and international. Maybe StoryCorps folks could check the archives from the Center for Self-Determination.

  7. RandyLynn Barron says:

    This is wonderful news! Is there a way to tell our story without traveling to San Francisco, Atlanta or Chicago?
    Kind regards,

  8. Amanda D says:

    This is great! My brother interviewed my grandfather (a WONDERFUL storyteller) for Story Corps a number of years back about his youth and his service in WWII using SC’s mobile unit (which provided the mics and other recording equipment). The recordings are a family treasure, especially since Grandpa passed away last November at the age of 90. I think the Disability Visibility Project will be a great addition to the SC collection. I’d recommend contacting them directly about getting involved, as well as with any concerns about accessibility or video recording. Don’t draw conclusions from the photo and miss out on something great without looking into it yourself–the photo is just to give a visual to the story and doesn’t show nearly enough.

  9. Filomena A. Boniello says:

    In answer to the person’s comment about individuals who are deaf, an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter could ask questions of the individual or interpret for a close relative or friend, whose signing may not be fluent. Signed sections could then be voice interpreted for radio, or if seen on visual media have subtitles.

  10. Rick Cardenas says:

    ADA is important but, looking at disability through history ADA is a step in the process of reaching civil and human rights for all. The struggle continues for programatic and physical accessibility throughout the U.S. Here in the U.S. we even have a person (Rand Paul) running for president that has questioned and expressed disdain for the necessity of private and public places to provide the expense of making their establishments accessible in any way. ADA was a struggle to gain and is a struggle to maintain.

  11. Dr. Bob Segalman says:

    I could not find instructions to record my story for Storycorps. Would you please send me the URL? I want to participate in the disability recording project.

  12. Ann Di says:

    The law is barely adhered to and not regularly enforced. EEOC and USDOJ are a joke. The courts even refuse to adhere to ADA. A judge actually made a comment that wheelchair access was good enough for one person so he didn’t understand why I needed different accommodations for my very different health impairments. This situation has cost me about $15,000 so far. I will eventually be homeless because the courts refuse to adhere to the law. I have gotten the same attitude from other courts from the municipal to federal level. I have found official documentation that my accommodation requests are reasonable, but the court still balked.

  13. Barbara Franklin says:

    Will you be coming to NYC? I am president of AdvocureNF2 a disease that causes brain and spinal and nerve tumors. Most are deaf and many also have other deficits: blind, wheelchair, balance, eating, swallowing, speaking. NF2ers typically are impacted in teen and early 20’s and then it becomes progressively worse. They can discuss all types of challenges not “just” one.

    Please let me know if you’d like to interview someone with NF2.

    Thank you,

  14. Catrina Davis says:

    Thank you for doing this Thank you, thank you, thank you. My 23-year old son has Williams Syndrome and just the other day was talking about wanting to share something about his life with StoryCorps. We will be arranging an appointment.

  15. Catrina Davis says:

    A suggestion: although StoryCorps has a great list of different questions for using to discuss various topics (such as raising children, or family heritage, or war, or remembering a loved one), I think it’d be really helpful for this project to come up with some questions more specific to this topic.

  16. Teri Voorhes says:

    We would love to participate but can’t figure out how to sign up. Any advice??

  17. Whitney says:

    I think this project should go into states where there are problems for the disability community in Texas. Where they fast and loose with the laws of the ADA.

  18. ann finn dorian says:

    To piggyback Martha’s comments. We moved to Houston, from New York. Texas is lagging behind for sure, but I see a lot more compassion here and the parents/caretakers of their loved ones are much more eager to get involved. Most states neglect, and New York is no exception. Nothing much good comes from the State itself…all positive services will be private or religious-based. As for the adult Autistic person, there is virtually nothing out there, unless we as parents, start a meetup ourselves. It’s hard but not impossible and I wish many blessings to Martha and her son.

  19. Scott Rains says:

    Thank you for posting this. I jumped on the opportunity and got one of the last slots available. Yesterday (August 9, 2014) I went with my friend Denise Deshetler to record my recollections of founding the first Disabled Student’s Commission at the University of Washington in 1975. Good luck to you Alice and the Disability Visibility Project.

  20. Stephen Michael Alvarez says:

    Can the bus make a trip down to Corpus Christi, Texas sometime in the near future. I’d really like to share my experience. I think this is a great way for the disabled community to share their stories with the general public. I know that I certainly would like to share my experiences with someone out there. It is difficult to find another human being who is willing to listen empathetically and not judge or criticize a point of view that they will never subjectively understand. Shoot me an e-mail if this is possible. Thanks for all that you do.

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