Kim Kilpatrick isn’t hemmed in by her blindness.
It’s the refusal of others to see what she is capable of doing that she finds frustrating.
Kilpatrick applied for a grant from the Canada Council of the Arts to create a 90-minute story telling program to talk about growing up blind. She wanted to break down some of the misconceptions about blindness.
She has been a storyteller for 10 years, but wanted to expand her programming and allow for costs of things like publicity.
“I like the medium of storytelling,” Kilpatrick said. “Unlike movies and plays there’s no visual component, you’re free to just listen.”
Kilpatrick garnered the grant in the spring of 2011 and has performed at various locations in Ottawa and the valley.
The downtown resident will appear on the National Arts Centre’s fourth stage on Jan. 17 to perform as part of the Ottawa Story Tellers Speaking Out, Speaking In series.
Because storytelling is an oral tradition, Kilpatrick said she doesn’t work from any kind of prepared notes. She rarely has props. The show is her story and her life.
Funny and irreverent, Kilpatrick finds material in her daily life, much like a standup comedian – difference is she finds the material just as funny as the audience does.
At the Ottawa Story Tellers office on Murray Street, Kilpatrick recounted being led across the street by well meaning people despite the fact that she wasn’t planning to cross.
“It happens less now that I have a guide dog,” she said, stroking her constant companion Tulia. “But I would sometimes stop to get my bearings at a street corner and someone would come and lead me by the elbow across the road. Then you have to cross back.”
Kilpatrick said she hopes her shows help people ask the questions of her they may be afraid to in other settings.
When she isn’t hitting the stage at the NAC, Kilpatrick participates in workshops at area schools through an organization called Multicultural Arts School Council.
“It’s great because kids will ask you anything,” she said.
Kilpatrick said she also hopes being out in the community and giving public talks will help people to learn about blindness.
“I know some people don’t feel they should have to be advocates because of their disability,” Kilpatrick said. “But I want people to feel comfortable around me.”
Kilpatrick said some people assume she isn’t mentally capable because of her blindness, or that she is hard of hearing.
“I will be in a meeting or something and people will ask whoever is accompanying me what I want for lunch,” Kilpatrick said. “Or in the same conversation where someone is asking me if I have super hearing because I am blind, they are shouting.”
Caitlyn Paxson, a public relations officer for Ottawa Story Tellers, said she has worked with Kilpatrick for five years and was initially taken aback by some of the things that would happen when they were out together.
“We would be in a store and a clerk would ask me if I think she would like an item,” Paxson said. “I would say, ‘She’s right there.’”
But whatever she lacks in sight, Kilpatrick makes up for in humour, often bursting out laughing as she recalls awkward encounters with well-meaning sighted people.
Growing up in Ottawa, Kilpatrick has the support of her family, who always pushed her to live life to the fullest despite her disability.
“When I was a kid I would try and say that I couldn’t clean my room because I was blind, but my mom wasn’t having any of it,” she said.
She also recalled pretending to be unable to find candles and matches during power outages and trying to convince her siblings to play cards in the dark.
Kilpatrick’s show includes stories like this and more. Tickets are $20 and the doors open on Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the NAC box office or at ticketmaster.ca.