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MT Organization Amplifies Voices of Disability Communities

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Elizabeth Cummings shared her experiences with her son, who has autism and a genetic disorder, through Montana Voices Amplified. (Wisam Raheem/Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities)
Elizabeth Cummings shared her experiences with her son, who has autism and a genetic disorder, through Montana Voices Amplified. (Wisam Raheem/Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
April 13, 2021

HELENA, Mont. -- A project in Montana is raising up the experiences of people with disabilities and their families.

Montana Voices Amplified provides a platform for people to speak about their daily lives.

Ed Worrell, an assistive technology teacher who is blind, wrote with a hint of sarcasm about how social media is presented to people who are visually impaired.

"I just wanted to make people aware that 32 thumbs-up emojis in a row really makes it hard for a screen reader user to navigate through the whole text," Worrell explained. "It's just one of those things that what you think you're doing might be cutesy but, for someone with a screen reader, we just skip past it."

Worrell added steps such as ensuring all web pages can be read by screen readers would make the internet more accessible for everyone.

Montana Voices Amplified is hosted by the Montana Family to Family Health Information Center, a program of the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities at the University of Montana.

Elizabeth Cummings, a special-education teacher and parent of a child with complex health needs, contributed a story to Montana Voices Amplified.

She said many people care about disability communities.

"But they may not understand our experiences just because they haven't lived them or directly known someone," Cummings remarked. "So when we can share our stories, I do find that people are often very receptive, but they may just not have heard them before."

Shawna Hanson, outreach coordinator for the Montana Family to Family Health Information Center, said the stories of people with disabilities often are told by folks outside these communities, but this project has helped get authentic voices onto a bigger stage, and even in front of state legislators.

"We have a lot of isolated, small communities, and it is hard for people with disabilities scattered around Montana to connect and to feel supported," Hanson emphasized. "And so this is one way they can share their stories and one way they can access the stories and know they're not alone."

Disclosure: Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities contributes to our fund for reporting on Disabilities, Health Issues, Rural/Farming, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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