The Power of a Story

For today's blog, I'm going to talk a little bit about the importance of storytelling in disability. This, to some of you, might sound a bit strange and you may be wondering what exactly I've been smoking in recent days. The fact is, however, that I truly believe that storytelling is an important part of living with a disability. Allow me to elaborate…

Every person in this world has a story to tell. Every one of those stories is unique and each one interacts with a different set of characters, places and events. Growing up, I would often lose myself in the world of fantasy stories such as those written by J.R.R. Tolkien, JK Rowling and others. I loved these stories, and still do, for their ability to expand my imagination and awake my creativity. For many years, I was certain I was going to become a professional writer and write the next great fantasy epic. Needless to say, that never happened but I have always maintained a profound appreciation for a good story and a belief in the power of a compelling narrative.

When you grow up with a disability, your story is always just a little bit different. It has different characters, different events, and certainly many different places that other stories may not include. The first reaction of many people when they encounter the narrative of disability is to shy away from it, and to hastily try and find another book…any other book. Just as frequently, those of us who are in the middle of disability stories may try to change the words of our own pages. I certainly don't blame anyone for trying to do this, as it is what societies conditioned bus to believe we should do. But I think we need to look at narratives, especially disability narratives, as important tools for learning and understanding. Instead of shying away from reading these books, we should encourage people who have never encountered a disability narrative to interact and read it. We would all be much better for it if everyone in this world had some exposure to disability.

You may be wondering what I mean, and what exactly are you talking about in terms of letting people into your story. I think we can all agree that by virtue of being human we all project some sort of narrative to the world in the way that we act, the way that we think in the way that we move. I attend a monthly storytelling event where I am constantly impressed by the vulnerability and empowerment shown by the storytellers. Every time I attend one of these events, I am struck by how impacted I feel at the end of the night and how this story can connect to you like a few other things can. The same holds true for disability. When those vulnerable and empowering stories get told, and when we let people connect with the stories that are created by disability, we are removing stigma changing dominant perception that surrounds physical difference.

I love a good story, always have and always well, especially one that includes disability in its pages.