It is an ancient question: If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one present to hear it, does it make a sound?
While there isn’t enough space on this blog to indulge in the many theoretical answers to this question, it does play a large part in how StoryCorps is perceived. Since 2003 we have worked diligently collecting oral history and the voices of the common person. But what defines a voice? If the participant cannot or chooses not to speak audibly can we still hear them?
It’s not a trick question. The answer is yes.
We recently had the unique pleasure of serving the deaf community in Tulsa, Oklahoma through The Total Source of Hearing Loss and Access. TSHA is an organization that provides services promoting independence to deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. The interviews were the result of a well orchestrated collaboration with StoryCorps providing stories that varied between speaking and non-speaking, domestic and international participants.
Interpreter/hearing-impaired participant pairs were arranged to allow the interpreter to voice the entire conversation. Although some participants utilized the voices of the interpreter, others had lost their hearing during their teenage years and were comfortable voicing for themselves. The stories were those of struggle, triumph, love, and achievement. It was pretty exciting to get a new perspective.
It was a rewarding experience for everyone involved. One of the participants even decided to blog about hers.
I’m so grateful that communication isn’t limited by the voice, otherwise we would have missed out on an entire community of important stories.