Friday, July 11, 2014

StoryCorps: Sharing vignettes of American life, living with a disability

From SF Weekly:

A young man thanks his dance teacher for giving him shelter from abusive parents in high school. An American soldier describes to her girlfriend the misery of welcoming the coffins of fellow soldiers back to American soil. A husband and wife discuss the financial hardships and spiritual rewards of running a rat sanctuary within their home. These are the people of StoryCorps, a non-profit oral history project that captures and preserves vignettes of American life.

The organization's simple design invites any individual to interview someone about a personal topic -- and the results that are rarely less than breathtaking. And in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, from July 10 through Dec. 13 StoryCorps will partner with the Disability Visibility Campaign to collect the unique stories of people who have experienced disability.

StoryCorps has three permanent recording booths, including the one on the sixth floor of the San Francisco Public Library Main Branch where all stories including those in honor of the ADA anniversary can be recorded.

"Storycorps provides a platform that's approachable to all people" says project coordinator Alice Wong.
In the highly curated clips of some StoryCorps conversations, which run on NPR's "Morning Edition," speakers tend to have distinguished themselves not through by exercising their humanity in moments fraught with difficulty.

And now, the 10-year-old oral history project will collaborate with the Disability Visibility project in honor the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act by telling stories through conversation, which, if previous StoryCorps are any reference, will include tears, humor, and foul-mouthed centenarians.

"It's my hope that the minutiae of the lived experience of people with disabilities are documented alongside the 'big' things such as activism, policy making and advocacy. All these things matter and are part of disability history," says Wong.

Making a reservation is easy, just be sure to specify that you want your story to be included in the Disability Visibility Project in the "Notes" section. Appointments at the Public Library take about 40 minutes and may take place in any language the participants choose. Each participants will receive a recording of their interviews and one copy will join other stories at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington DC.

The StoryCorps and Disability Visibility collaboration is billed as a "community partnership," which is fitting because the fleeting community created between listener and speakers during StoryCorps episodes often feels as strong as those speaking. Other StoryCorps San Francisco community partners include Support for Families and Fabled Asp, which focus on support for children and lesbians with disabilities.

Jeremy Helton, national marketing and communications manager for StoryCorps says that this community partnership hopes "to encourage people with disabilities to record their stories during the ADA anniversary month, but our interest in recording the stories of people with disabilities is year round."

In a recent interview Wong added: "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."

No story too inconsequential, no disability excluded; join StoryCorps and the Disability Visibility Project this year at the public library to make disability not just visible, but audible.