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Analysing intersections of disability and life course

In this video, Louisa Smith and Kelley Johnson give feedback on the life stories of different people with disabilities.
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MAN: Future Learn. [THEME MUSIC] UNSW Australia.
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Life Stories, Educator Feedback.
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LOUISA SMITH: So in the films that you just watched when you were examining these different phases of life and looking at how people with disabilities experienced them differently, you’ll notice that as people transition into different phases of life, they often experience new challenges. So for instance, Antoni, as he transitions into adolescence, finds himself attracted to girls but is very self-conscious about whether they’ll accept them because of his impairment. And obviously, we all experience that self-consciousness when we’re adolescents and experimenting.
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KELLEY JOHNSON: Not only then. [LAUGHING]
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LOUISA SMITH: –when we’re experimenting with our sexuality. But I think for Antoni it really was amplified by knowing how people perceived his impairment. And similarly for Steve, transitioning into adolescence was a time when he was really experiencing his own gender in very different ways that were really illegible or incomprehensible to those around him because of his intellectual disability. So those kind of transitions really point to that intersection between life course and impairment, and some of the different challenges that can arise. In a similar way, Jordanna had those experiences when she became a mother. And there was an expectation for her, this full joy and expectation that everybody would share that joy, and a surprise when they didn’t.
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KELLEY JOHNSON: I thought that was particularly strong. And it also pointed out, along with the other life stories, that although there might be barriers, although it might be difficult, people with disabilities do find ways of transcending those barriers and doing things about them. And I thought of Jordanna for instance, with her newborn baby Callie, and the things that supported her to overcome those negative attitudes were her own pride in Deaf culture and a really extensive network of friends, many of whom also appreciated that and were able to share her joy.
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And I think of Antoni, who yes, was really lacking in confidence, but found eventually that being honest and being straight with the woman he was attracted to, even though her family remained negative, led to a much closer relationship. And Vivienne, who found that mentoring allowed her to move towards the independence that she so much wanted.
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LOUISA SMITH: So what these stories really indicate to us is just how important it is to know the complexity and the nuances of individual stories and experiences– of their lives and of their experiences of impairment and disability.
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KELLEY JOHNSON: Yeah, and to do that across someone’s history. Because I think often for people with disabilities, they are known in this space here, but nobody really tries to find out what happened before. And yet the stories that you’ve watched show just how important that can be.

All of us experience different stages and ways of being through our lives.

In this video, Kelley and Louisa discuss some of the stories from the four previous steps. They reflect, in particular, on the importance of different life transitions in the lives of the different guest presenters. They also reflect on how the guest presenters found ways of adapting and empowering themselves and others even when they were faced with barriers.

After you’ve listened to Kelley and Louisa’s discussion, you might like to reflect back on Elder’s life course perspective which we explored in Step 4.1: Welcome to Week 4.

Talking points

  • In Step 4.4: The importance of looking across the life course, Iva Strnadová described the importance of supporting people through life transitions. Based on the stories from our guest presenters, why do you think it might be especially important for people with disabilities to have support when they are transitioning from one life stage to the next?
  • Iva also noted the importance of looking at how different microsystems in people’s lives — like school, work and home — intersect. How can this idea be applied to the stories you have just seen?

We will look more closely at intersections in Week 5.

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Disability and a Good Life: Thinking through Disability

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