Nov. 14, 2022

Digital stories celebrate disability pride

Online and in-person events premiere short films created by participants in Multisensory Studio
An illustration of girl from behind, wearing a blue "Alice in Wonderland" dress, peering down a bright pink path. Green plants are beside the path and trees with blue leaves loom overhead. The picture is on a black background.
Still image drawing from digital story ‘Looking Glass Self’ by Asil El Galad, co-facilitator Courtesy Asil El Galad

You’re invited to experience films that celebrate difference, disability pride, and storytelling! My Life. My Story: The youth digital storytelling project  features digital stories — short films — from over 30 disabled artists from across Canada who’ll be sharing unique stories, and perspectives that provide an intimate look into dealing with the pandemic, juggling school, moving, and day-to-day living.

There are two events: one online and the other in person. The online screening festival is Nov. 18 and 19. By registering for the online screening, viewers can log in for any of the sessions and be part of a virtual audience with viewers from across Canada. The event includes online discussions and a panel with the artists, researchers, and facilitators. 

On Monday, Nov. 28 in Calgary, there is a “red carpet” gala screening of stories created by local artists. This event takes place at cSpace (1721-29 Avenue S.W., Calgary), and includes refreshments, music, and a Q-and-A after the show. With ASL interpreters at both the online and in-person events, everyone is welcome!

My Life. My Story is a community collaboration between the Calgary SCOPE Society and the Multisensory Studio, an innovative University of Calgary research hub that that focuses on sensory storytelling and arts-based research. The Multisensory Studio was created by Dr. Kathleen Sitter, PhD, Canada Research Chair in Multisensory Storytelling in Research and Knowledge Translation, who answered a few questions about the project and events.

Q. In a nutshell, what is the My Life. My Story project? 

Kathleen Sitter: The project focused on exploring the first-person stories from disabled youth in the areas of school, work, and community living. Working with our community partner, Calgary SCOPE Society, our goal was to develop an online accessible digital storytelling workshop.

There were two phases: the first phase was focused on training peer-facilitators. We recruited and trained disabled youth currently enrolled in post-secondary. The peer-facilitators then were actively involved as facilitators in phase two, which involved recruiting disabled youth and adults from across Canada who wanted to create a digital story about their experience and also learn about technology.

The Calgary Scope Society have been an valuable partner in this work. Over time, word spread about the impact of this project, and we worked with participants from all across Canada.

Q. What are the origins of the project and how does it tie into your research?

A. Humans are multisensory beings; human experiences and environments are textured with sound, smell, visual qualities. Our work at the studio focuses on different forms of knowledge to understand ways people can share how they live, experience the world through formats that are accessible by design.

While most qualitative research prioritizes speaking and writing methods to understand lived experiences, this can create participation barriers for many people. Engaging in creative methods can open up opportunities for stories that are often on the margins.

In this project, there are so many amazing stories! Some examples or ‘teasers’ via the links include stories about neurodivergent experiences (The way she thinks by Ashlynn), participant stories created with co-facilitators about the pandemic (My battle with COVID by Pikachu8), advocacy (I was built for the world, but the world wasn’t built for me by Kelsey), and stories about being a post-secondary student (New beginnings in life by Ayen).

As part of this research project, we also wanted to understand the impact of how to develop a process with community that was accessible for everyone. While participants indicated these workshops improved multimedia literacy (and leadership skills among facilitators), even more exciting, were the community connections made, and the confidence felt in engaging in this unique process for people to create and share stories.  

We have had great feedback from participants and saw that this kind of programming meets a need in the disability community, and we think the accessibility of our workshops make it something for everyone. We hope to be able to expand what we can do with the Digital Storytelling Project, and through other work in the Multisensory Studio.

Q. There are two events coming up in which people can check out the stories. What can we expect?

A. For the online event, a full program is available on the website. Everyone is welcome to register and join in for whichever themes are most interesting to them. The gala at cSpace is an in-person event which will include a screening of the Alberta-made films. There will be refreshments and a Q-and-A, and we’re encouraging attendees to dress “fancy and fun” however people define it. Everyone is welcome!

Register for the My Life. My Story online screening 

Register for the gala event

Read the My Life. My Story final report 

Support accessible research: The Multisensory Studio strives to provide an accessible environment to support the creation, engagement, and enactment of stories by, for, with, and alongside the disability community. This project was made possible by donations from an anonymous donor and the Azrieli Foundation. Their philanthropic support, and a partnership with Calgary’s SCOPE Society, provided critical funding and resources to bring this project to life. Connect to learn more about how you can support accessible research.