Thursday, April 23, 2009

"It's Our Story" records oral histories of Americans with disabilities

"It's Our Story" is a project of the Disability Media Initiative. Here's a description of the project:

“It’s Our Story” is a video oral history project that uncovers the power, pride, and challenges of being disabled in America. By October of 2009, one thousand people from across the land will have contributed their voice to what it was like, is like, and should be like to live in America with a disability. Together, these voices produce a modern day Iliad that Homer would be proud of, together they represent the most diverse community on Earth, and together they will change the way we see ourselves. Disability touches everyone and culture equally. There is no other human experience that can claim this universal impact and within that experience is a power to teach humanity how to be more human.

There are 54 million people with disabilities in the United States. After years and years of segregation and exclusion, it is no surprise we have the highest unemployment rate, the highest poverty rate and the highest social isolation barriers to overcome. “It’s Our Story” unlocks the doors that have kept us from our communities, and frees our voices to tell our own stories, and record our own history. Silent no more, we have much to teach, and even more to contribute as fully participating members of our communities.

Disability Media Initiative (DMI) has created the “It’s Our Story” archive. The most comprehensive video conversation on disability ever produced. With three quarters of the interviews already on tape, the archive will incorporate 1,000 interviews upon completion. Each personal story reveals everyday challenges that people with disabilities face, together comprising the history and progress of the disability rights movement, the lessons learned, and pointing the way for the future.In these intensely personal conversations, people talk about family and friends, medical and social attitudes, employment and investment, education and engagement, advocacy and political strategies, transitions and aging, cultural perspectives and the arts, access and transportation, intimacy and sex, and every other aspect of disability in

By July 26, 2010, a social network will be premiered. A modern communication tool to disseminate information to our next generation of leaders and the communities they serve. The website will be easily searchable, and accessible to people who are deaf, blind, and/or who aren’t able to read or write or communicate verbally for any number of reasons. We expect “It’s Our Story,” to result in many outcomes, including, but not limited to:

• People with disabilities from all backgrounds will recognize themselves in these stories, and will be inspired to assume leadership roles in their communities, at home and abroad, and fight for their rights;

• The general public will come to understand that those of us with disabilities are just like them, having the same dreams, hopes, fears, and desires for a good and meaningful life;

• Policy-makers will acquire knowledge to make better decisions that affect people with disabilities, and will understand the wisdom of partnering with people with disabilities when making decisions and crafting policy;

• Researchers, students, teachers, and trainers will be able to use the archive for educational projects, to create training materials, and research a variety of disability-related issues.

• People with and without disabilities will be able to use the website archive to assemble projects, and in the process acquire skills in media, filmmaking, journalism, advertising, and communications.

As part of the overall project, DMI has also created the “It’s Our Story” Flag, (pictured) a conceptual art piece that embodies the essence of the “It’s Our Story” archive. It is comprised of over 700 handmade Story Sticks, each representing a video portrait of one individual, and containing a picture of that person. The flag is a 12’ x 20’ sculpture that is touring America until the 20th Anniversary of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) in 2010.