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What is a good life?

In this video, different people with disabilities share their ideas about what a good life means for them.
ANTONI: For me, personally, having a good life is having a supportive family. Having a good life is when you can have a good education, as high as education as possible. But what I really would like to emphasise here is that, for most people, disability is like - including myself - having a good life is when society can accommodate you. I mean, can accept you. I mean, like, can… We’re counted as part of the society who have equal rights, who have equal responsibilities, like, a part of human diversity.
DUNCAN: I think sometimes people get a little bit worried about protecting their good life or their way of life. You know, is one’s good life a good life to the detriment of someone else’s life or to their quality of living. I suppose my answer would be no, because I think we can all live together and try and support everyone else. And, for me, I think helping other people is part of the good life.
STEVE: A good life, to me, is not to take your body for granted and love yourself unconditionally. I think that’s a good life. And taking everything in. And feeling everything, going for a simple walk, drinking your tea, drinking your coffee, sitting down and just, like, taking everything in.
JORDANNA: Everyday living, I need access to communication. Auslan is one way. Pen and paper is another way. Sometimes the littlest things can give me access, especially when I’m ordering coffee, for example. I’ve got a coffee shop next to my work who I go to regularly, and there’s a guy there who can sign. And, you know, I always ask for a cappuccino in sign language, and that guy understands what I’m saying.
VIVIENNE: A good life is being happy. To be happy, one has to look at their disability as a challenge or a game to be played. I pity able-bodied people who are not conscious of the victory of successfully picking up a piece of paper off the floor or doing up a seatbelt. There are so many challenges and victories to rejoice over. Every small victory should be a joy.
DUNCAN: You’re constantly told that your disability is, you know, infringing upon you having a good life. And, I suppose, you know, it’s a big ‘what if?’ - what my life would be like if my vision hadn’t degenerated when I was 18. But because my vision’s degenerated, I’ve now got a career. I’m quite happy with my career in terms of the successes that it’s had, and without my vision impairment, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It’s part of me, but it’s also, um…’s one of those things that has contributed to me having a good life.

Throughout the course a diverse group of people with different impairments will talk about their lives and experiences being disabled. Some are invited experts. Others have agreed to tell us about their life experiences in more depth. Here we introduce you to five guest speakers who you will see many times both in this course and its partner course Thinking through Disability.

In the above video, Duncan, Steve, Vivienne, Jordanna and Antoni (pictured below, from left to right) reflect on a broad range of things that contribute to them living a good life. These range from access, to loving oneself, to being supported and supporting others.

Links to an audio description, English transcript, and mp3 of this video are available at the bottom of this step. We have also linked to two additional resources we have made about a good life — where educators from this course, members of the course advisory group and other disability scholars reflect on the meaning of a good life. Hopefully, when you’re watching these videos or reading the transcripts you will be able to reflect on your own life, and think about what makes a good life for you.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Abraham Maslow began developing a hierarchy of needs in the 1940s, and while his focus was on motivation, this hierarchy can also be a useful framework to begin thinking about a good life. We provide a visual aid of Maslow’s hierarchy in the Downloads below.

For Maslow, there are eight levels of human need which motivate people. These eight levels form a hierarchy. The four basic levels of need include:

  • Biology and physiology: air, food, drink, sleep, warmth;
  • Safety: protection from the elements, shelter, security, law, order;
  • Love and belonging: friendship, intimacy, affection, love;
  • Esteem: self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance.
Maslow suggested that the four basic levels of need must be met, before people are strongly motivated to pursue the other levels:
  • Cognitive needs: knowing, meaning;
  • Aesthetic needs: beauty, balance, order;
  • Self actualisation: realising personal potential, self fulfilment, seeking growth;
  • Transcendence: helping others to achieve self-actualisation.
If you would like to get a better sense of a good life, take a look at the supplementary materials in the See Also section below.

Talking points

  • What is a good life for you?
  • How does it link to ideas discussed by the presenters in the videos, as well as to the ideas of your fellow learners?
  • Does Maslow’s hierarchy help you understand a good life? What are some of its limitations?

Extend your knowledge — In Step 1.13: Critiquing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we look at some of the ways Maslow’s hierarchy has been criticised for not valuing human diversity. You can skip ahead to this step now, or wait to see it later in the week. If you do skip ahead, make sure you backtrack to complete the steps you have skipped! Marking this step as complete will help you keep track of what you have done.

In the next step, we introduce the importance of human diversity.

This article is from the free online

Disability and a Good Life: Working with Disability

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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