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UToledo Professor Organizes Community Storytelling Event for Artists With Disabilities

Driven by a focus on firsthand perspective, Dr. Rebecca Monteleone has organized creative storytelling performances featuring artists with disabilities over the last few years in Arizona, and she is launching her first one in Ohio this month.

For two months, the assistant professor of disability studies at The University of Toledo has been working with the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ self-advocacy group SALUTE to prepare for the public performance 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 17, at the main branch of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, 325 Michigan St.

Each speaker will perform a powerful personal story of self-advocacy and personal growth.

Dr. Rebecca Monteleone, UToledo assistant professor of disability studies

“There are a lot of stereotypes that exist about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including that they are not capable of contributing to their communities or leading happy, meaningful lives,” Monteleone said. “An event like this, which features artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities talking about their relationships, friendships, advocacy work and more, proves how wrong those stereotypes are.”

Monteleone has been workshopping with the artists for two hours once a week for six weeks to prepare for their debut. They began by talking about storytelling, agreed on a theme, learned how to construct a story and then developed a story for performance.

“People with intellectual and developmental disabilities have historically not had opportunities to tell their own stories, and so most often the public learns about them through the lens of professionals, caregivers and parents,” Monteleone said. “This event challenges the assumption that those narratives are the only ones that exist. To open this event to the public and have it in a venue like the Toledo Public Library makes a statement: people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are part of the Toledo community and deserve to take up space in it.”

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