Storytelling workshop helps those with disabilities find a voice



By Chris Bianco


Josh Easton sits at a desk at the Community Living Kincardine and District (CLKD) office and practices the finer points of a speech he’s been working on.


Easton is a bright young man with a quick wit and a passion for public speaking. He has been supported by community living in his endeavours for a year now, and he’s been working on developing methods to share his story with the world. A cancer survivor, Easton was diagnosed with a malignant teratoma. Shortly after he began suffering from seizures, eventually resulting in a major seizure that broke both of his hip bones. Easton thenwent through chemo, which thinned his skin and weakened his immune system, and he continues to push through physiotherapy to regain his ability to walk. Easton is a fighter, and he wants to use his experiences to inspire others who may have to deal with similar hardship, as well as reach out to and educate those who have never had experience with a disability.


CLKD is developing a program to help Easton and others like him who wish to develop their public speaking or just gain confidence in their communication. They have received a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to address social isolation and misconceptions and will be using these funds to host a six-week public speaking and storytelling workshop series. The series will feature local teacher Phillip Craig, and focuses on an individualized approach to storytelling and public speaking. It will involve practice using a microphone, and gaining experience speaking in front of a group. The series will employ a variety of communication strategies, including sign language, writing, using iPads and other technological devices, as well as using body language in order to accommodate different forms of communication used by participants.


Beth French, Community Engagement Co-ordinator CLKD, hopes that this series will allow community living clients to better share their experiences. She states that this is an important opportunity to reach out to the public to share understanding about what it is like to live with a disability. She says that it is powerful when people are able to hear about other’s experiences. She also thinks it will be empowering for others with disabilities to see these examples.


As for Easton, he hopes to use the series and the support from CLKD to launch a business as a motivational speaker. He has his sights set on delivering an intro speech at “Dream Big,” an event celebrating inclusion and overcoming obstacles, in Clinton on May 10. He hopes that delivering speeches such as that one will produce a ripple effect, and will motivate and educate listeners. In his own words “I want to be able to inspire change, not only within the community, but in the world.”There is no doubt that he has an important story to share, and that it serves as an example of triumph over hardship.


The public speaking and storytelling workshop will be running at CLKD from March 21 to April 25. It will be open to Community Living clients and their families.