March 28, 2016

Do You Hear What I Hear?

By Tai of Allsup

Many people don’t realize that disability advocacy has been a movement for many years.

Some of my colleagues here at Allsup’s headquarters in Belleville, Illinois, traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to attend the American Association of People with Disabilities’ (AAPD) Annual Leadership Awards Gala. AAPD has been working as a convener, connector and catalyst for change for two decades through its leadership and supporters.

AAPD presented the Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award to Robyn Powell and Alice Wong, recognizing them as emerging leaders in the national disability rights movement. Both women are empowering individuals with disabilities to find their voices and use them.

Robyn Powell and Disabled Parenting Project

Powell is the team leader for the Disabled Parenting Project (DPP), and served as an attorney advisor at the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency that advises the president and Congress on matters concerning people with disabilities.

DPP is helping to inform social policy by creating and promoting resources created by the disabled parenting community. First-person articles, videos and digital photos of parents allow them to tell their own stories and experiences in childrearing. Read some posts on their Facebook page.

Alice Wong and Disability Visibility Project

Wong is the founder and project coordinator, of the Disability Visibility Project (DVP), an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying and sharing disability stories and culture. In partnership with StoryCorps, DVP allows people to tell their stories on their own terms and archives them for posterity. Social media amplifies these stories and helps build a sense of community.

The DVP makes a special effort to record stories from underrepresented groups such as people of color, immigrants, veterans, and LGBTQIA people. To date, the DVP has recorded more than 100 oral histories, some which have been featured on National Public Radio. DVP also hosts regular Twitter chats, and is spearheading #CripTheVote, a nonpartisan campaign to engage voters and politicians in discussions about disability issues in the United States.

Stories That Are Told

In my role at Allsup, I have the privilege of hearing from individuals who have a wide range of abilities. I have noticed some recurring themes:

  • The importance of community and peers who have a shared experience.
  • The desire to feel included in society by having the same rights and responsibilities as other citizens.
  • People with disabilities are often the targets of biased, prejudiced and unfair treatment.
  • The desire to help others by sharing their stories and hard-earned experiences.
  • Frustration with not being heard.

Encouraging individuals to share their stories and providing the platform to do it is empowering.

Powell, Wong and many other individuals with and without disabilities are working to make sure these stories are told. The least any of us can do is listen.

Editor’s note: The Allsup True Help Web event, True Help Telling Your Story is a now available on-demand.

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