“There is no excuse for parachuting people into situations and programmes with no real knowledge of the wider context, simply because it’s their role or expertise to find stories. Authentic voices should be central to everything that we do, and the language we use is a key part of this.”

Talking Disability Workshop Participant, 2021

Promoting authentic storytelling

We all need to be champions of authentic storytelling. At Small Voice Projects we encourage media and communications practitioners to:

  1. Strive: to share the raw experiences of real people and drop worn out stereotypes.
  2. Consider: who is the most appropriate person to be telling that story and how can we reach more people to get those stories – particularly in times of crisis.
  3. Reframe: the narrative making the authentic voice the central voice instead of the organisation/donor/funder.
  4. Shifting: approaches to enable the real stories of ordinary lives being told and working with communities so that they can bring their stories into focus.

How can we do this?

  • Create narratives that give opportunities to storytellers to tell their stories first-hand, so that they can challenge ableism from the ground up.
  • Skill journalists and researchers to ask the right questions.
  • Develop narratives that are authentic and representative of disability.
  • Promote diverse stories based on lived experience.
  • Dispel the superhero myth by shifting the gaze to an ordinary life being lived.
  • Avoid using overtly emotive language.
  • Promote disability rights, not the charity.
  • Create ‘reporter’ networks of people with lived experience.
  • Join in the conversation about inclusive storytelling now. The potential for changing perceptions on disability is huge.
Photo: Jazz
Namembo, Zambia