It all started with a documentary.

People with developmental disabilities are often misunderstood, and society has a largely inaccurate idea of their limitations and abilities. My little sister, Emma, was born with Down syndrome, and I was quick to underestimate her abilities. After years of watching my mom make a way for her and seeing Emma arise to the occasion, I began to recognize how people with developmental disabilities tend to remain undermined and excluded.

But research suggests that providing society with information and contact, creates understanding and empathy, which are the two ingredients needed to transform negative attitudes into inclusive mindsets. That’s why theater is so important.

During my senior year in college, I decided to make a documentary about this, featuring six performers with developmental disabilities. 1,200 people showed up to the premiere, and little did I know that was just the beginning.

Now People Like Us is a non-profit helping other cities start arts programs for people with developmental disabilities.

We provided everything needed to start and sustain performing arts programs for performers with disabilities - from on-site coaching to comprehensive curriculum - making it easy to give people with disabilities the opportunity to perform and thrive. Simultaneously, through providing performers with an outlet for connection, confidence-building, and community, performers are given the opportunity to learn the professional and social skills required to best integrate into their communities.

Platforming performers with disabilities provides the space for self-advocacy and the opportunity for people with disabilities to transform society’s perceptions about themselves. We hope you’ll join us in giving people with disabilities a voice and stage in our societies.

-Kirsti Mutz, Founder