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A man playing a saxophone on stage. Painting of a hand cupped around a tiny infant. Vibrantly colored painting of geometric renderings of faces. A woman sculpting a bust out of clay. Close-up of a painting of a human eye in shades of black, red and orange. A woman performing in a play on stage. A young boy smiling at a hand puppet. An exuberant group of participants in the Actual Lives program. A young boy participating in the Arts Alive program. Painting with white and blue hair-like strokes on a background of deep turquoise. Man in a wheelchair viewing artwork in a gallery. Blind artist standing in front of his work. Group of women performing with colored scarves. Man speaking into a microphone with open captioning on a large screen behind him. Group of young students playing a musical game with the teacher.

Programs - Opening Minds, Opening DoorsWhat is Opening Minds, Opening Doors?

Participants will be professionally trained to speak and present at conferences and other events. Through workshops focused on narrative storytelling and presentation techniques, participants will work to develop strong, creative voices, as well as the skills necessary to advocate for disability rights. Participants will also receive mentoring and coaching from the Project Coordinator, their peers, and other professionals.

Self-advocates will be encouraged to tell their life stories, their abilities, needs, hopes, and dreams. Through telling these stories, they will help to create positive change in public awareness and public policy that affects people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

For many years, VSA Texas has worked with individuals with disabilities to give voice to a whole range of stories, memories, attitudes, and experiences not usually shared with the general public. We use an autobiographical performance format because it gives people a chance to put forth their own arguments and interpretations of who they are, and how they came to be.

It is our goal that participants in the program will gain increased self-esteem and confidence, thereby becoming more effective advocates for change. Through public speaking engagements, misconceptions about people with disabilities can be set straight with frank, moving, and engaging stories of their actual lives.

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