About Tennessee Kindred Stories of Disability

Stories have power. They spark listener attention and are immediately memorable for one simple reason--human beings are programmed to relate to human beings. This is pivotal because when we relate, we begin to care and to take action. Perhaps this is why stories have served such an important function throughout history.

Tennessee Kindred Stories of Disability, an advocacy story project facilitated through the Vanderbilt Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (VKC UCEDD), also seeks to harness the power of the story and to make disability-related issues both concrete and personal. In doing so, personal stories of disability are used as tools for advocacy, bringing awareness to communities from Nashville to Capitol Hill.

The project benefits so many.

  • University students, who contribute by interviewing individuals with disabilities and their families and writing their oral histories, are often exposed to issues that take them beyond their particular academic pursuits and career goals.
  • Disability service organizations also stand to gain a lot from Kindred Stories of Disability. The project has provided them with a wealth of new oral histories, bringing attention to disability-related issues that are relevant to their organizational missions in a personal way.
  • Benefits also extend to the greater disability community because individuals with disabilities and their families who share their stories speak not only for themselves. They speak for a broad network of people who may share their challenges and feel marginalized. It is a common occurrence for people in the disability community to harbor a sense of isolation, but Kindred Stories of Disability can let them know they are not alone.
  • Legislators and policymakers also benefit because they learn about the issues that matter to the constituents with disabilities and families living in their districts.

To learn more about the history, process, and promise of the Kindred Stories of Disability project, or to download a free project replication guide, see Kindred Stories of Disability: Sharing Personal Experiences to Impact Public Policy.

How and to whom are stories shared?

In addition to this website, where stories are searchable by disability, age range, topic, and county, booklets are compiled into print booklets each year for easy sharing with legislators and policymakers. The booklets are distributed to elected officials by staff of The Arc Tennessee during Tennessee Disability Day on the Hill and at the Federal Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. The booklets often highlight specific themes that are relevant for the upcoming legislative sessions.

For more information, contact courtney.taylor@vanderbilt.edu