Disability Stories to Create a Movement
Artwork by Gwynne Duncan for Herstory's Paintings for Justice archive
Saturdays 3:00-5:00 pm EDT
Offered free of charge via Zoom
Herstory’s cross-age, cross-disability workshop formed at the start of the pandemic when a small group of people with disabilities met up on Zoom, tentatively stepping into an experience when we weren’t quite sure what to expect. What developed was a community of disabled writers who are writing powerful stories that narrate our experiences and speak back to a world that often dismisses us.
We meet weekly to share our writing and support each other in writing the strongest memoirs we can. One of our favorite things about Shaping Spaces is the solidarity we create across different types of disabilities—we so often find common ground in our disparate experiences, but even when our experiences don’t line up, we learn from each other and support each other. We have members who are blind, wheelchair users, people with chronic illness, chronic pain, and psychiatric disabilities, and many other disabilities.
The memoirs we are writing tell parts of our life stories and explore the experiences we’ve had and the ways we understand our bodies, minds, and communities. But they also imagine the world we are moving toward, constructing blueprints for a society that values us more, in which we can exist with dignity and compassion.
We meet via Zoom on Saturdays from 3-5pm EST. Participants should have access to a computer or tablet with a webcam/microphone and internet access. We are especially looking for people who have been engaged with disability activism, although anyone with a disability is welcome. Come once or twice, to tell a particular story that needs to be told. Or continue week after week to shape stories for readings, web publications, or book length projects. No writing experience is required!
Co-leader Janelle Gagnon writes:
I became physically disabled in high school. That is when I started to write. I wrote to find ways to understand the pain and isolation I was experiencing. I wrote so that other people could understand the struggles I faced: how a simple task that takes an able-bodied person one minute could take me ten, and how some things were inaccessible to me no matter how hard I worked for it.
Now I co-lead Herstory’s Shaping Spaces workshop, to help other disabled people write their stories. In Shaping Spaces, people with disabilities write memoir about our experiences. We come together to tell our stories in our own words, showing how we experience the world. We write about the discrimination and challenges we face, but also about our triumphs, our joy.
We write to discover. We write to forge new paths. To redefine. To educate. To push back against the narratives that try to contain us. There are dozens of reasons why we write, but the one thing that unites us is that we all have stories to tell about living with disability. We write with the goal of shaping stories that can be used to reach out to the people who most need to hear our stories: the doctors, policy makers, and caretakers who make decisions about our lives but often don’t have first-hand experience with disability.