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Stories of belonging

In this video, different guest presenters with disabilities share experiences of inclusion and belonging.
ANTONI: My parents have always been telling me that, “You are no different.” I mean, like, “You have impairment, but you’re not different. “You’re the same as like your brother.” And this is also what inspired by parents to send me to mainstream education. My parents believed that if I was amongst people without disabilities, then…that I could feel that I belonged to them. And then my friends could also learn that it is great to have a friend with a disability. This is…this is part of their life. You know, I mean, like… we, you know, like, laugh together. We even play in the rain together. They push my wheelchair here and there. It was a really fun moment in my life.
DUNCAN: The climbing community, in general, is quite accepting of people full stop, and of people with differing disabilities or abilities. With my blindness, my vision impairment, people see it and go, “Oh, cool,” you know? Everyone understands that everyone else has different disabilities in climbing. And, you know, with that… ..that sort of reaction of “Oh, that’s cool,” you know, a lot of people think about, “OK, let’s work out the ways to,” you know, “get up this cliff,” or whatever. And it’s always a case of, you know, people just asking as opposed to telling what to do with it because it’s always…it’s a matter of asking, “Are you all right?”
VIVIENNE: I used to see a lady walk past my house frequently. One day, this lady kindly wished me “Happy Easter!” And added that her religion doesn’t celebrate Easter. I asked her what church does she go to. And she replied, “The Maroubra Synagogue because I am Jewish.” I replied, “I am Jewish too. Could I come too one day?” And she said that she’s sure they would welcome me. The people at the Maroubra Synagogue were grateful I could teach them more about disabilities. And they were overjoyed when I joined in their celebration.
JORDANNA: Personally, I look at myself as a capital ‘D’ Deaf person. It’s important because that’s who you are. That’s how you identify yourself. That’s how you go through your everyday living. The people out there who don’t have the confidence, they’re more of a small ‘D’ deaf person. They’re a little bit lost. They’re not sure what path to take or where they’re going. And…and also, personally, I connect with the Deaf community. I connect with amazing people who believe, who have the same philosophy as I do.
STEVE: I go to a theatre group, and I like the group ‘cause it’s freeing and it gets you to move places and to explore and be more aware. It’s such a beautiful thing to make your body move. It’s sort of saying what you feel like and you don’t even have to use your mouth. You can just move your arm or move your head or move your stomach or move your legs or move any parts of your bodies that are on you. I mean, like, just move anything.

In the video, we hear our guest presenters talk about their experiences of diversity, inclusion and belonging.

Antoni talks about his parents’ acceptance of him as being “no different” from anyone else, meaning that he entered mainstream school with a confidence in his abilities. Duncan also talks about finding the climbing community accepting of everyone’s different abilities. Similarly, Vivienne found this acceptance in the Jewish community where she lived. Antoni, Duncan and Vivienne all mention how these experiences were not only great for them, but were also important for the communities they belonged to — communities that valued their contribution and what they added to everyone’s experience.

Jordanna and Steve also talk about being members of communities and feeling a strong sense of belonging, but for them, this belonging was found in disability communities. Jordanna found pride and connection in her identification with the Deaf community. And Steve found a sense of liberation in his theatre group. Steve also emphasises how a sense of connection and belonging can be found in ways that others might not recognise — through moving the body, and feeling free to express yourself truthfully.

We provide a link to an audio description version of this video in the See Also section below.

Talking points

One of the ideas underpinning the stories of the guest presenters is the idea of difference. Interestingly, the presenters talk about being different in different ways. For Antoni, it was important that his parents emphasised he was “no different” from his brother, but for Duncan it was important that there was an understanding of “differing abilities.”
  • What do you think is the significance of this idea of difference in terms of understanding human diversity?
  • Do you think “belonging” is a useful concept?
  • Belonging is closely linked to the desire for human connection. Based on your own experience, do you think this desire is universal, or does it vary among diverse individuals?
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Disability and a Good Life: Working with Disability

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