StoryCorps Disability Visibility Project and StoryCorps app

Listen to this post: 

If you noticed a break where no blog posts came out it’s because I was in San Francisco this week to record an interview with Lavaun Heaster for the StoryCorps Disability Visibility Project. It was a great trip. I was thrilled to meet some of Lavaun’s old friends and some family and to try (and often fail) using public transportation in the Bay Area. Also, I had a really amazing bagel, better than any bagel I’ve tried in Portland.

Those are just some of the trip highlights. The biggest, though, was being inside the StoryCorps booth. For those of you who know how much I can’t stand to break my routine or leave my house very much, I give you evidence that it really happened. See?

Two women sit at a table with studio microphones in front of them. Cheryl wears a Criptiques t-shirt, and Lavaun wears a black and white dress.[Image description: Two women sit at a table with studio microphones in front of them. Cheryl wears a Criptiques t-shirt, and Lavaun wears a black and white dress.]

We had just wrapped up a 40-minute conversation where I asked Lavaun to tell stories about her heritage, relationship to disability, how she got involved in the disability community (not the same as having a disability), and probably something else. I can no longer remember because it was yesterday. Fortunately, I don’t have to remember. StoryCorps interviews done in their booths and mobile booth are archived in the Library of Congress. Thanks to Alice Wong’s efforts in the Disability Visibility Project, this is the first time they’ve collected stories specifically with the tag “disability.” That’s why Lavaun and I wanted to participate. Certainly disability has come up in many stories before. But it’s exciting to get the tag. Check out some of their other initiatives on the StoryCorps recording locations and programs page.

Not everyone can get to one of the booths for many reasons. So there’s now a StoryCorps app that will take you through all the steps to create questions, lead an interview or storytelling session, and upload your recording to be archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. I plan to download it and get my 40 minutes of storytelling recorded too. I highly recommend folks who have access to a smart phone or tablet go to to get the app for Apple or Android. It’s a neat experience to be an interviewer and to tell your stories. You can pick which role you want. If you want to try the other role, then record a second session! Be sure to tag your recording with Disability Visibility Project before you upload it if you want it archived. If you want your story to remain private, you can choose to save it to your device and skip the uploading part.

This is a very valuable way to take charge of narrating your own story. Because it’s audio, it probably seems like it’s not something for the Deaf/deaf or Hard-of-Hearing communities or people who don’t communicate through speech. But I would challenge that. I would love for some folks to team up with interpreters to voice stories told in a signed language. Send me the recording. I can transcribe it (special discount for Disability Visibility Project participants). Tell your story using a speech generating device. Write it and have someone to read it aloud. The issue here is not how you sound or how you tell your story. It’s about access to getting recorded. Now that the app is here, you don’t have to rush to San Francisco or find the mobile booth to record. I recommend it!