Artist of the Month: Opening Minds, Opening Doors

Artist of the Month: Opening Minds, Opening Doors

Our March 2019 Artist of the Month is the entire Opening Minds, Opening Doors program, a project which encapsulates so many fabulous public speakers across the state of Texas we couldn’t pick just one! And we couldn’t be more excited to launch our first class for new participants in Austin since April of 2017!

OMOD speaker high fives VSA's executive director

For those who may not know, Opening Minds, Opening Doors, or OMOD as we affectionately call it, is a project we launched in 2013 with the goal of increasing the number of speakers with developmental disabilities who present at conferences and other events in Texas. One of the biggest obstacles people with disabilities face in everything from our daily personal lives to the daunting social issues impacting our entire country, is that non-disabled people frequently speak for us. Even at conferences on disability issues, people with disabilities may constitute a very small minority of the actual speakers presenting. OMOD sought to right this problematic trend by providing Texas a pool of skilled public speakers with disabilities who were ready to go out, tell their stories, and shatter misconceptions along the way.

woman presents story in American sign language

In OMOD we use stories because they possess a tremendous power to break down barriers of difference and instill empathy towards misunderstood groups. But the stories you hear in an OMOD presentation may not be the stories you expect. Sure, a lot of stories disabled people tell focus on the medical challenges inherent in physical and/or cognitive limitations, but you’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of these in our entire history of OMOD. Attend a typical OMOD presentation, and you’ll hear stories filled with humor and frank, unadulterated honesty about working lives, the ups and downs of relationships, vacation adventures, the balance of pressing boundaries while simultaneously accepting one’s limitations, strange social interactions and unexpected shocks of discrimination. You’ll find yourself in the midst of uproarious laughter one moment and questioning your own assumptions the next; by the end, one thing is certain: you won’t ever see disability in quite the same way again.

But don’t take my word for it… just take a look at the highlights from our 2017 showcase below and see for yourself the incredible variety and talent our OMOD speakers possess. Or better yet: come see our next showcase at the Ground Floor Theatre the afternoon of May 18th, 2019. Or if you yourself want to join the Opening Minds, Opening Doors project as a speaker and storyteller, I encourage you to apply to participate in our upcoming Preparing a Powerful Story for Presentation class (Download the application here.) or attend one of our Speaking Advocates group meetings held every last Saturday of the month from 1-3 PM in Room 130 of the AGE Building located at 3710 Cedar Street, Austin, TX 78705. If you have any OMOD-related questions, feel free to call 512-454-9912 or email me for more information.

Eric Clow
OMOD Project Coordinator
Art Spark Texas

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