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Conversations for the Record

Categories: Blind or Visually Impaired, Learning Disabilities, Parenting

RFB&D was honored to be invited to visit with StoryCorps in Trenton, NJ to record a pair of wide-ranging conversations about life and living with learning differences. We first met up with StoryCorps when they visited the studios of NPR affiliate radio station WNJN in Trenton during the summer. Their marvelous mobile recording booth took up residence in Trenton for much of the month of September, and we arranged to come and record stories on the 29th. Above left to right: Virginia Lora of StoryCorps, our New Jersey Board Members Mark Sherman and Andy Kavulich, RFB&D Member Services staffers Kristen Witucki and James Simmons, Tad the guide dog, and Doug Sprei, RFB&D Director of Media Relations. Below: Mark Sherman (left) is the father of children with dyslexia who have been helped by RFB&D's program. His friend Andy Kavulich (right) is also father to dyslexic kids; both serve on our New Jersey Board of Directors. The two dads shared personal perspectives, especially drilling into the critical needs of parents when it comes to information and assistive resources for children with learning differences. Both men have been shaped by deep family-based experiences into passionate spokespeople for RFB&D, and have offered to help us germinate a national network of parent-advocates to cascade our message and mission deep into the public at large. (Listen to an exerpt of Mark and Andy's conversation by clicking on the player at the bottom of this story.) Next, an entirely different conversation took place between two RFB&D staffers. Assisted by a StoryCorps producer, Kristen Witucki and her life partner James Simmons recorded an intimate dialogue accented with healthy measures of laughter. Kristen and James are blind and met years ago as employees working in RFB&D's Member Services department. They now live together and are expecting a child in December. Naturally, some of their conversation centered around how they met and forged a relationship, and the vision they have as parents-to-be in a sighted world. Tad the guide dog was gracious throughout this entire 45-minute exercise, reserving commentary until after the interview's conclusion, when James and Kristen posed for a photo for the StoryCorps' archive. He then practically leaped down the steps of the recording trailer out to the sidewalk in search of a grassy place, with Kristen and James in tow behind him. No animals or humans were harmed in the production of this story. Founded in 2003, StoryCorps is truly a remarkable endeavor, one of the largest oral history projects in the world. All StoryCorps interviews are housed at the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress – a panoramic record of the American experience comprising more than 30,000 interviews from more than 60,000 participants.  A CD is given to participants following their interviews – and the good folks at StoryCorps made sure to give RFB&D copies of these unique conversations so that we can share excerpts of them with our growing online community.

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