Tag Archives: disability awareness

How Will You Celebrate Stuttering Awareness?

As a stand up comedian and Disability educator, I aim to make the world more aware of aspects of the disability experience.  As a person who stutters, who loves her community, I make a special point to share my experience and educate people about stuttering and stuttering etiquette.  In everything I do, I hope to go beyond stuttering awareness to place where we can celebrate our community and have a more inclusive world where we are able to be more integrated in our identities as people who stutter and however else we identify (culture, talents, hobbies, etc…).  We just aren’t our speech, but I personally don’t want people to overlook my experiences as a Stutterer because those experiences are an important part of what has created me.

Sometimes I get a little stuck on how I want to raise awareness.  I am just one individual, so how will I make an impact in raising awareness in my personal and professional lives, not to mention the world?  I have some ideas that I wanted to share with you.  And in no particular order….

Ain’t No Party Like A Stuttering Party

You know what?  People don’t equate stuttering or disability with fun!  I know, I don’t get it either.  Whenever I am around people who share my experiences I have hella fun.  I feel like I am at home.  People without disabilities or who don’t stutter can’t even imagine us getting together and partying.  Why not get together with your local stuttering community and go out to eat, picnic, sing karaoke, go out dancing, or whatever would be fun.  Make it an open invitation so people can meet up (you can even use meetup.com to do outreach), meet each other and find a community where they can not only share their gripes about stuttering in a fluent world, but also share their joys, successes and laughter.  Making space for us to have fun is so important and is a great bonding experience.  If you want to wear matching shirts or stuttering awareness sashes, that is great, but just getting together is a big deal for us.

Fun+food+stuttering=awareness

As an Italian-American, I tend to overdo it with the food, so I think I have some expertise in this area.  My plan is to bring stuttering awareness cupcakes to my office to share this year.  They will eat sea-green colored cupcakes but also get information about how to talk to a person who stutters.  There is plenty of information online about stuttering (just make sure it is the good stuff—please don’t send them that BS of Tony Robbins curing a person who stutters in 7 minutes because he was traumatized by Rocky and Bulwrinkle–no joke!  There is a lot of information about stuttering.  There are many organizations that produce materials such as the National Stuttering Association (NSA), Friends who Stutter, and Say.  Both organizations stress self-acceptance, community, and treatment options for people who stutter.  Not everyone is looking to be fluent and it is important for people outside of our community to know that we don’t need to be fixed.  Why not provide this type of information with decorated cookies or cupcakes?!

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Providing resources

Whatever you do, remember to provide resources to people you outreach too.  You might want to make a list of your top ten links, organizations, or videos.  Sometimes people are too shy to ask questions so providing resources can help them to find information on their own and digest it in their own time.  There are also some great podcasts like Women Who Stutter: Our Stories, Stutter Talk and Stuttering is Cool that you can promote as resources where real life experiences are explored.  Also, there are wonderful communities that can be found online.  One of my favorites is Stutter Social where you can communicate with people who stutter from all around the world in real time.  Because it is a Google Circle, you are able to see and hear people and is open to everyone.

Donating/Fundraising

There are large and small ways to fundraise or donate.  The most obvious is to just do it.  Send money to your favorite stuttering organization.  Many of us can’t afford to do this, but we might be able to organize an event to raise money.  There are some amazing organizations that help individuals who stutter to find their identity and advocate against discrimination.  Find out what stuttering organizations fit your own passions.  Besides raising money, your personal campaign funding is also raising awareness too because you are profiling an organization that you are passionate about.

Extra-Extra: Stutter all about it!

Did you know that radio stations NEED to do public service announcements (PSAs) as part of their community outreach?  Why not one about stuttering? I found the National Stuttering Association when I was a teenager because of a late night PSA and it changed my life.  Why not network to see how you can bring stuttering to a bigger audience?  Contacting your local news outlets is another great way to get the word out.  National Stuttering Awareness week is a great hook for a news outlet to cover.

Social Media

Social media is a blog entry in and of itself!  Lots of great activism goes on in social media.  Between tweeting, facebooking, blogging/vlogging, pinning and whatever else Silicon Valley has introduced this week, there is a ton of stuff that you can do to raise awareness and celebrate the Stuttering community.  Here are a few ideas.

Memes

For my purposes, I am talking about the little pictures that you can post to your social media.  Memes have a more broad definition, but let’s stick to the images for now.  Memes are a great way to give a visual image to a sound bite that you want to convey.  You can create your own to share or you can re-share others.  I have some of the ones that I have created at, please feel free to steal them: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.918396334847879.1073741833.123746114312909&type=1

Whether you create your own or share other’s, you might want to include a message about what the meme means to you and why you are sharing it.  We don’t always get to share our experience of stuttering, so saying a bit about it’s significance in your life will help to educate others.

Vlogs/Blogs

One of my biggest pet peeves, whether we are talking about entertainment or the academic/research realms, is that we, as people who stutter, have often had our voices blunted by the dominant/fluent perspective.  Traditionally, we have not had control over our images in the media or elsewhere.  The Disability community has adopted the slogan, “nothing about us without us” meaning that we should have say over all aspects of our Disability experience.  For the first time in our history, we have a direct line for representing who we are.  Why not share your experiences to the world?  Of course you should consider what you are sharing and take precautions.  If you are a young person, check with your family and friends to see if what you are thinking is a good idea and if you are prepared for any backlash.  Just assume that someone will have a problem with what you are saying, but also know that if you speak from a place that is authentic and true to yourself, you will touch people.  Other videos, like skits or slide shows, can also contribute to the library of images and diversity of content about stuttering.

One of my favorite videos I have worked on was with Gina Davis.  

Sharing videos

Sometimes you just can’t get around to creating a video or a blog but you might want to share other videos/blogs that represent your views.  There is a lot of great stuff out there and losing yourself in a search can produce some great opportunities to educate people on your Twitter feed and Facebook.  When sharing, do take into consideration that over saturating your Facebook feed can water down your message.  People get overwhelmed.  It might be better for you to post twice a day over the week instead of all at once.  Marketing research says that the peak time for Facebook is 11AM.  Apparently you are all sneaking it at work!  Thinking strategically can make the most out of your own personal awareness campaign.  Also, instead of just posting videos, include comments or questions so that people interact with the video.  It might start some great conversations on your feed!

People you admire who also happen to stutter

If I see another meme or article about Tiger Woods overcoming his stuttering, I am going to hurl!  So many of the images of people who stutter are people who don’t stutter openly.  Look beyond the awareness posters and images of “people who overcame” and look toward the athletes, professors, reporters, podcast hosts, authors and people YOU identify with.  Post these pictures and bios to your social media outlets and let people know why they are important to you.

The following is a list of some of the stuttering awareness material I have produced over the years.  Please include additional links in the comments section.  I hope something touches you and motivates you to tell others about stuttering:

BLOGS

Don’t Be That Person Who Stutters

The Stuttering Iceberg Gets A Make Over

License to Stutter: What the Stuttering Community Has Meant to Me

VIDEOS

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Changing the image of Disability through comedy

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Big news!  The Comedians with Disabilities Act and Friends album is out.  Disabled Comedy Only is the first ever compilation of Disabled comedians on a single album.  Monumental! The recording was done independently and without any Jumpstarts or GoFundMes.  As artists with disabilities we retained complete control over our material, our image and our brand.  No abled bodied people dictated what we should or shouldn’t say.  Please support independent comedy fighting for visibility, equity, and disability justice through comedy.

Please support the album by purchasing it at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/comedianswithdisabilitie

and sharing our videos!

Thank you for the support!

Symbolizing All Of Us in the Disability Movement

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Description of picture a dark blue plus sign is in the middle of a light blue square.

I am a comedian, but I guess not for this post.  Straight Disability Studies nerd for this….

For years I have been searching for a symbol that unifies the Disability community that encompasses the diversity (both disability and other cultures) that we have.  I have always been jealous of the LGBT community because they have flags and symbols that begin to encompass their experiences.  The Disability has the American flag with the wheelchair symbol where the stars are, but I don’t see it used to represent our community.

A few weeks I was reading Jenny Morris’ Pride Against Prejudice: Transforming Attitudes to Disability.  Morris writes in detail about the Third Reich’s  T-4 project.  The T4 project was the the Nazi final solution for people with Disabilities and targeted practices of euthanasia under premise that these were mercy killings and that these individuals were a burden on society.  Much propaganda went into rationalizing these killings.  Do search no the T-4 project to learn more about it.  I learned something for Morris that I never knew.  The manner in which the Nazi doctors coded whether of not to proceed with the termination of life was with a + (plus) and – (minus) symbol.  The – (minus) indicated that the person will be allowed to live and a + (plus) indicated that they would be killed.

These symbols had a great impression on me.  For years I have searched for something like the Rainbow flag or the pink triangle that symbolically conveyed the experience of the community.  The pink triangle especially impressed me because it was the symbol the Nazi’s used to brand homosexuals in concentration camps.  The LGBT community took the symbol back.   Was there a symbol that we could “take back” from oppressive experiences and make it our own?  There was no branding of people with Disabilities in camps because they were murdered fairly quickly.  For me the + (plus) symbolizes our struggle as well as our strengths.  I also feel that the + (plus) encompasses those with apparent and nonapparent Disabilities because it was meant to indicate any number of Disabilities that the Third Reich saw as unworthy lives (extending to psychiatric Disabilities).  Often times society reinforces messages that we are less than, that we are burdens to our families, communities and society.  For me, taking back the + (plus) emphasizes what the Disability community has accomplished and continues to contribute to the world.

I made the symbol “handicap parking blue” to express the need for access and civil rights.  I am not sure if this is a color universal associated with access so the applicability may be limited to the US.  Plus I am not sure if the blue on blue is friendly to some visual Disabilities.  I imagine there could be variations like a pink + (plus) for women with disabilities, a rainbow one for LGBT communities with Disabilities, or colors associated with particular disabilities (sea-green for stuttering)

I am sure that I could go on and on, but I just wanted to put this out there as well as to challenge others to consider symbols or flags that unify us as a community and express our experiences.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Other comments from Darren Brown:

” As a youth with speech impediments, colorblindness, mental health issues and now, a physical disability, I think it’s time we look beyond our popular notion of what disability entails.”

Funding Disability Awareness Events on your College Campus

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I receive many emails and phone calls from colleges who want to have me speak or perform but aren’t sure how to fund travel, lodging and speaking fees.  This is especially true of programs for students with disabilities whose budgets are strapped and rarely have funds for guest speakers.  I have wanted to share some ideas that I oftentimes share in scenarios like this.  If you have other ideas, please share them in the comments section.

 

Disability as Part of Diversity and Multiculturalism:  Disability is a culture and people with Disabilities are part of the largest minority group in the United States.  Sometimes they are not included in events around diversity.  Having speakers who represent the Disability community can contribute to the conversation on diversity and also acknowledges the multiple minority status that many people experience.  Some schools have diversity committees that can contribute funds for a speaker and be a co-sponsor for the event.

 

Student Life:  Many colleges have Student Life departments that book shows and speakers for campus events.  Student Life often has the money to fund the events but they may not know of performers and speakers with disabilities.  Many entertainers are part of a larger organization to get their gigs but performers with disabilities may not have access to this organization because of the expense or lack of an agent to represent them.  Referring a performer with a disability can bring diversity to the Student Life department.  Although every month should be disability awareness month (in addition to Black history/ Gay pride month, etc…), it may be a good argument to get performers in October and April when many schools have or should have Disability awareness events.

 

Explore Multiple Speaking Opportunities:  When I do a show at a college, if the schedule permits, I am open to talking to other groups or classes (of course you will have to pay performers-just because we have a disability doesn’t mean we are giving it away for free!).  In negotiating with the performer, you might pull together a schedule where they are making different appearances throughout the day.  Some performers may be open to getting $100 as a guest speaker and then $800 for a big show the next night.  Thinking creatively can help entice a performer to your college, even if you are not able to pay their top dollar price.

Speakers May Not Mind Doing Double Duty:  Many performers and speakers are multitalented.  They may be performers by night but teachers, motivational speaker and trainers by day.  For example, I could do comedy with the Comedians with Disabilities Act at a night time show but be available to train faculty on universal design in teaching, speaking to fluency classes on stuttering or having a meet and greet with students who have disabilities.  Wearing multiple hats may mean multiple funding streams to support the transportation and lodging that come along with hiring a performer.

Collaborating with Student Groups:  Student groups can be a great resource for bringing in speakers.  These groups sometimes include special interests (career oriented), minority status (ethnic, disability, gay/lesbian/bi/trans), or service oriented.  Speakers who represent different groups might be co-sponsored by multiple organizations.  Speakers with Disabilities are primed to be sponsored by groups like Disabled Student Unions, future special education teachers, and social justice organizations (just to name a few).

 

Collaboration with the Community:  In higher education there is a movement toward community engagement.  Schools should be looking at how to engage with Disability related organizations.  Community organizations might have the funds but not have the venue.  Colleges might have the venue but not the funds!  Why not join each other to educate the college and local community!

 

President’s Speaker and Other Special Series: Many colleges have a special series or colloquiums where speakers with specialized knowledge are invited to speak.  These positions are often reserved for big shot academics.  The Disability community often resents “experts” representing their experiences.  A core value in our community is “nothing about us without us,” a moto appropriate from the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.  So when you approach the president’s office to fund your event, be sure to share this value and why having an activist instead of an academic is appropriate.

 

It is common at colleges for events to be sponsored by many departments and organizations.  For programs for students with disabilities collaboration is especially important because of limited resources.  If your department is able to do the “work” of setting up the speaker, there is oftentimes money that can be mined from different departments.  It could take work and schmoozing, but the students with and without disabilities, faculty, staff and the local community will all benefit.  Plus the more investment by different groups the more people will come!  It is a good way to get butts in the seats and allow other groups become invested in disability awareness.

 

Please feel free to share your ideas for funding in the comments area below.

 

There are lots of comedians, performers and speakers with Disabilities who would love to speak to your college communities.  Here are just a few!  Make sure you make sure they are a good fit for your show before you book.  

 

Comedians with Disabilities Act: A blind man.  A woman who stutters.  A wheelchair user.  A Little Person.  While this may sound like a description of a support group, it is, in fact, the lineup for the “Comedians with Disabilities Act”, a comedy troupe that the San Francisco Examiner called “the most unconventional  comics  to  pop  up  in  2011.”    Made  up  entirely  of performers with different disabilities, the troupe brings their brand of humor to audiences throughout the Bay Area.  www.facebook.com/comedianswithdisabilitiesact

Nina G (hey that’s me):  Nina is a humorist who performs with the comedy troupes The Comedians with Disabilities Act and Feminist Tendencies.  She brings disability awareness to night club and college audiences through comedy.  She is also an educator and disability activist educating via workshops, keynote addresses, and trainings.  Workshop topics include universal design in teaching, disability awareness, and humor as a coping strategy. http://www.ninagcomedian.com

Cheryl Green, MFA, MS integrates her degrees in performing arts and speech-language pathology to explore how story can be used to break down stigma and barriers. She creates films with a disability justice perspective and can lecture on disability representation in the media; brain injury identity and culture; and a variety of technical topics around brain injury deficits, cognitive rehabilitation, and participation level treatment concepts. She is located in Portland, OR.  https://www.facebook.com/StoryMinders

 

Ally Bruener: Ally is a stand-up comedian based out of Louisville, Kentucky. Her sweet and innocent appearance is the ultimate misdirection once she opens her mouth. She’ll steal the hearts of a shocked audience. http://www.allybruener.com/

 

Caitlin Wood: author of Criptiques http://whereslulu.com/

 

Aaron Snyder: https://www.facebook.com/themusclea

 

Queenie TT: http://www.pssistermovement.com/

 

Chris Fonseca: http://www.comedypro.com/fonseca

 

Shannon Devido: http://www.shannondevido.com/

 

Tim Grill: www.Timgrill.com