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words and photo by Erik Stolpmann
Shelley Ann Morris is a co-host of Welcome to My World—a Wednesday morning program made by, for, and about people with disabilities.
How long have you been involved at CKCU?
I’ve been a host for about three years, but I’ve been an avid listener since I was a kid. I can remember when CKCU went on the air November 1975, and I’ve listened on and off ever since I was about 14 years old. So I guess I’ve been involved since that time but an actual host for 3 years.
When we’re broadcasting—when we’re putting together our shows on-the-air—we never know who’s going to be listening. I was that little kid upstairs in her bedroom with the radio turned on, doing her homework while listening to the likes of Junior Smith, Ron Sweetman, John Tackaberry, and Roch Parisien, who are still around in different forms.
Why did you first become involved?
I always dreamed of being on the radio. You know when you’re a kid, and you have these dreams, but then life gets in the way, and you put those dreams on the shelf for a little bit—but they stay with you.
What happened with us, on January 14, 2012, Matthew Crosier was doing a presentation at CKCU related to making good radio. So we showed up—myself, my co-host Kim Kilpatrick, and another woman named Parastou—after hearing about it from Chris White. Of course, Chris is the host of Canadian Spaces on CKCU, and I think his whole reason for being is to give other people their voice. With his help and support from others, we decided that this was something that we wanted to pursue. Chris said, “Okay, you want to learn how to be on the radio? I can show three blind and visually impaired people how to do that.” So we did some sessions in the practice studio and we learned our craft and Chris taught us a lot of things. With lots of practice, we ended up feeling confident and proposed a show called “Welcome To My World.”
What is the premise of your program?
At that time, I don’t think there was another disabilities show on the air in Ottawa. So we proposed a show by, for, and about people with disabilities.
Why did you start Welcome To My World?
We thought about it—Kim, Parastou, and I—and along helping us out was a lady named Ellen Goodman, a teacher of blind and visually impaired students here in Ottawa. So there were many meetings over coffee where we hammered out the idea of a show. We really wanted to do a show that was cross-disabilities—featuring all kinds of disabilities—but also the challenges that people with disabilities face and also the positives, the things that they’re achieving. Unfortunately, there’s still this tendency in the media to focus on a person with a disability as a superhuman or a very piteous creature. It’s nice to be able to focus on people with disabilities doing everyday things and achieving things. We also are focusing on the resources available for people with disabilities, such as various supports and services.
We’ve had people on from different organizations who provide services to folks with disabilities, and we’ve also had artists with disabilities on, as well. We try to feature music from artists with disabilities, as well. Sometimes we’ll do a whole program called “Did You Know?” with the premise being “did you know that these artists have disabilities?” It’s quite interesting. We really wanted to change the conversation about people with disabilities. Yes, there are challenges, but we have also made great strides.
We talk about the disability as much as it needs to be talked about and then go on to something else. We bring up the disability if the person wants to bring it up. Some people are more private about it. And this is something we hammer out before we go on the air. We had a guest who had a sign language interpreter. So it was easy for us to give them the questions ahead of time so they could get a gist of what we were saying. Some people have brain injuries, and they too might want the questions ahead of time so they can process them before the interview.
What drives you?
I think it’s very important to give back. I’ve been very blessed with so many things in my life—I’ve got good family, I’ve got good friends, I’m in excellent health. Some people think that if you have disabilities, you’re not healthy—that’s not true. I have conditions that have been with me all of my life. I’m visually impaired, but some people don’t know that I also have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (or ADHD). But I’ve learned to cope with that through plenty of support from the CKCU family, my work family, and my triathlon and sports family. I’m very fortunate.
I think what drives me most is being able to give back to the community. I just hope that in some small way, when we do our radio show, if we’ve helped one person that might’ve been listening, I’m happy with that.