Wednesday, April 8, 2009

“It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story,” Native American Proverb

“It’s Our Story” is a video oral history project that uncovers the power, pride, and personal struggles of living with a disability. It's a uniquely American story and challenges our most fundamental values of freedom, autonomy, and independence.

By October of 2009, over one thousand people from over one hundred cities will have contributed their voice to what it was like, is like, and should be like to live in America with a disability. The “It’s Our Story” Project is a tribute to the late Justin Dart Jr. Mr. Dart collected over five thousand testimonials from all fifty states to show the dilemma that people with disabilities faced, and by so doing paved the way for the landmark American with Disabilities Act.

The archive will make public the ten thousand pages of testimonials and will supplant these with a new collection of one thousand video oral histories. These primary sources will promote a deeper understanding of the progress made and articulate the challenges for future. Disability touches everyone; there is no other human experience that has the power to teach humanity how to be more human.

Today, 54 million people in the United States live with some type of disability. After years of stigma, discrimination, and social exclusion, it is no surprise they have the highest unemployment rate, the highest poverty rate and the highest social isolation barriers to overcome. “It’s Our Story” shares unique knowledge, personal insight, and shares the wisdom necessary to unlock human potential. This project can open doors to our communities, and frees the voices to tell their own stories, and record their own history.

The “It’s Our Story” archive will be the most comprehensive collection of empirical knowledge in the field. The archive presents the history, the lessons and the progress of the disability rights movement. It points the way for the future. Through a myriad of powerful insights we come to understand our own privileges and our own responsibilities towards a bigger community.

On July 26, 2010, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, a virtual social network website will be premiered. A modern communication tool to disseminate information to our next generation of leaders and the communities they serve. This website will be easily accessible for people with disabilities. We expect “It’s Our Story,” to accomplish the following:

* People with and without disabilities from all backgrounds will recognize themselves in these oral histories and stories, and will be inspired to assume leadership roles in their communities;

* 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 education and outreach projects, and in the process acquire skills in media, filmmaking, journalism, advertising, and communications.