Alice Wong, an academic researcher and disability advocate from San Francisco, wanted to do something unique to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, so she created the Disability Visability Project. Her project, which documents personal stories from across the disability community, recently received a boost from StoryCorps, the largest oral history project in the nation.
StoryCorps is an organization that has recorded, preserved, and shared over 50,000 interviews of Americans from all walks of life. Since its inception in 2003, each story recorded by StoryCorps has been permanently preserved at the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center for future generations. After learning that StoryCorps hadn’t previously worked with the disability community, Wong proposed a collaboration with the non-profit. It took a great deal of communicating with StoryCorps to work out the details but they agreed to participate with Wong at their locations in San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta along with a traveling recording studio.
It’s important to Wong that historically marginalized groups have the opportunity to document their unique stories and experiences. “When people see the complex nuances of a particular group, it becomes more difficult for those people to make generalizations or stereotypes about them,” she says. “Having a rich representation of people with multiple narratives can help humanize and promote better understanding of each community.”
This cooperative effort with StoryCorps is seeking a wide variety of stories and Wong encourages people with disabilities to discuss the roles they play in society such as being a parent, friend, volunteer, leader or advocate, etc. “We want all kinds of people with disabilities to record the stories of their everyday lives, not just the ones who are active ‘in the movement,’” she says.
The Disability Visibility Project will also keep an archive of all the recordings and photos of the participants. Wong plans to create a disability history website that can be used for educational purposes during the Americans with Disabilities Act 25th anniversary in 2015.
It’s been an adventure for Wong, who has put the project together mostly by herself and without much funding. Wong says StoryCorps has been nothing but supportive and she’s very thankful for their vital role in the project.