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What does thinking about disability teach us about a good life?

In this video, Gerard Goggin describes how non-disabled people view a good life and what we can learn from people with disabilities about a good life.

In this step we start to think about the many ways we might learn from people with disabilities to inform new ways of thinking about the organisation of our society, a good life, and what it means to be human.

In the above video, Gerard Goggin, Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney, reminds us that thinking about disability can teach us a lot about what a good life can be. Gerard suggests that contemporary society assumes that a good life involves becoming ever faster, stronger and bigger — often with the assistance of technology. But this superhuman vision of what it means to live a good life is very limiting. It doesn’t just exclude disabled people, it is impossible for everyone.

In Step 6.1: Valuing human flourishing, Duncan explained that some people’s sense of their own good life is constructed at the detriment of others. As Gerard stresses here, experiences of impairment and disability are positioned as the opposite of a good life, rather than being embraced as a part of it.

You may recall that in Week 3, Gerard described how people with disabilities are leading innovation — developing new technologies, and using existing technologies in new ways. In this step, Gerard points out that technology can be a useful case study to understand how people with impairments. He suggests that thinking through disability can create new possibilities. Rather than technology making us faster, stronger and bigger, in collaboration with people with disabilities technology can be useful, responsible and empowering.

We have a lot to learn from people with disabilities about what a good life means, and how we can enable a good life for everyone.

Talking points

  • Do you agree that when able-bodied people imagine a good life, they hope to ignore the realities of illness, old age and dying? Do you think this is unique to Western societies?
  • Are contemporary technologies and other aspects of society too focused on developing the perfectible (and/or superhuman) body, rather than other parts of life, such as community and belonging?
  • What can we learn from people with disabilities about what it means to live a good life?
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Disability and a Good Life: Thinking through Disability

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