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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.

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.

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Disability and a Good Life: Working with Disability

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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