To complete her graduate certificate in women and gender studies, University of Kansas graduate student Hannah Soyer decided to create a website to compile disabled individuals’ experiences during the pandemic through oral storytelling.
“As the pandemic has gone on, I personally have felt that the voices of disabled individuals have continued to largely be dismissed and our fears have largely been dismissed," Soyer said.
The creative writing major from Des Moines, Iowa, said she came up with the oral history archive idea herself, but ended up coming into contact with others working on a similar project.
“I want to be very clear, I did have this idea on my own, but the project … this isn’t just my project, you know, this is something we are all working on together,” Soyer said.
I’m building a website to house oral histories of disabled folks’ experiences during the pandemic and am looking for contributors! I want our voices to be recorded and amplified, instead of dismissed. DM me if you’re interested!— Hannah (she/her/hers) (@soyernotsawyer) November 10, 2020
After tweeting out the launch of this project, Soyer met Asher Wolf and Daisy Holder; both of who had been compiling stories of disabled, chronically ill and at-risk people from across the world. The trio then decided to collaborate and help one another on each of their projects.
“This project of oral history and working with Daisy and Asher is an act of saying, ‘Here are these stories. Here are these voices of disabled and chronically ill individuals who have been, and are being, impacted by the pandemic in ways that the mainstream society and culture are continuing to dismiss,'" Soyer said.
“It’s a way of saying that these stories and voices are valid and these bodies are not disposable," Soyer continued. "We are not disposable.”
The oral histories will be housed on Soyer’s website and distributed to both Holder’s Covid Disability Archive and the website Wolf and their team are currently building. In addition to oral histories, Soyer says the archive will accept written articles, pieces of art, videos, songs or anything else a person would like to contribute.
“I would hope people who see it, who are disabled or chronically ill or at risk themselves and have felt their voices and fears have been dismissed or invalidated throughout all of this, my hope would be that they see this project as validation of their experiences and fears,” Soyer said. “I would hope that they see it as a community, a very strong community that is fighting back and saying ‘No, we are important and your experience is valid and we are here and we aren’t going away.’”
For people outside of the at-risk demographic, Soyer hopes for a shift in perspective on the pandemic and at-risk individuals.
“I would hope people who do not fit into that group see it and at least start to think about all these different and diverse voices of people who have been affected, are being affected so much by the pandemic and who perhaps are being ignored,” Soyer said.
Prior to this project, Soyer teamed up with photographer Mary Mathis to create the This Body is Worthy website. The project aims to showcase bodies outside of societal ideals through a collection of photos.
Contributions to the archive can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org to be included on the website. There is no deadline for submitting content to the archive.
If individuals would prefer to conduct a short Zoom interview with Soyer, they can contact her at email@example.com and set up a time. The audio and transcription from the Zoom call will be housed on the website. The release date of the website has yet to be determined.
For those who would like to be involved with the project, Soyer is recruiting individuals to help with the oral histories and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.