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Storytelling: a Most Accessible Art Form

Editor's Note: Kim Kilpatrick is a member of AEBC's Ottawa-Gatineau Chapter in Ontario. She is Coordinator of the Supported Volunteer Program for People with Physical and Sensory Disabilities at Volunteer Ottawa.

I have been totally blind since birth and so as I grew up, the oral tradition was extremely meaningful for me. People read to me ever since I can remember. Also, my grandparents were Irish and they told wonderful stories about their lives and relatives. So the sounds of words and language surrounded me from an early age. I was keen to learn braille and love to read using it but hearing stories has always been a pleasure for me.

Anyone who knows me also knows that I love to talk and, therefore, telling stories came very naturally to me from an early age.

About seven years ago, I finally attended my first storytelling festival here in Ottawa in November of 2001. I had been promising myself to do this for some time but finally got around to it and I was truly hooked. I loved listening to stories of all kinds--literary, historic, personal, folk, and epic tales from around the world.

About a month later, I took our beginners workshop to learn the art of storytelling and I was launched. Since then, I've told stories of many types at our storytelling festival, on the National Arts Centre fourth stage, at cafes, in schools, and in historic ghost walks for Halloween. Many of my stories are personal ones having to do with my life with blindness. I hope through this art form to educate, amuse, and inform others in a positive and thought-provoking manner!

As I became involved in the storytelling community, I also wanted to volunteer to help them and to gain experience. I had just graduated with a certificate in Volunteer Management and wanted to practice these new skills in coordinating volunteers. I have coordinated the volunteers for the Ottawa Storytellers since 2002. I have coordinated the volunteers for our annual festival and all other events. In 2007 and 2008 I am festival co-chair. I've also written articles for storytelling publications.

Both my storytelling and volunteer work have led to paid work. I now regularly get paid as a storyteller and also the volunteering was very instrumental for me in getting my current job at our local volunteer centre. I help people with disabilities find volunteer opportunities in our community and educate non-profit organizations here too about involving volunteers with disabilities.

Through storytelling, I have met and made friends with wonderful people who share one of my passions, gained valuable work experience, and become part of a vibrant community. So I would say, if there is something you have always been wanting to try, get out there and try it. You never know what might happen!

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