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Reflecting on diversity and a good life

In this video, various people who work with disability describe their ideas of what it means to live a good life.
MAN: FutureLearn. [THEME MUSIC] UNSW Australia. What does it mean to live a good life?
ERIC EMERSON: A good life to me personally is about having a partner, about having children, friends, about having the resources– health, wealth, money– so that I can live the life as I choose. N.G.
KAMALAWATHIE THROUGH INTERPRETER: When I think of what a good life means, what comes to mind is that whether I’m a person with a disability or not, I should be able to live in society as an equal person who can enjoy and have access to human rights. Human rights must be meaningful to me in my own context. And a good life means not only good things, but it also means experiencing the difficult, experiencing and struggling with obstacles in life, and experiencing the negative.
When I think of a good life for someone such as me with a disability, it’s about respect as an equal member of the community, enjoying my rights, like the other members of the community, and experiencing the good, the bad, just as everyone else in life, and being treated as one of the community.
ZOE PARTINGTON-SOLLINGER: You want to have a good life. You want to be like everyone else in a way, and have choice, and to be able to access things like everybody else accesses. You want to be doing all those things socially, as well as career-wise as well as family-wise So a whole combination of all those elements are really important. And I think whilst you’re doing all that, you also want to be happy and to enjoy what you’re doing and to have freedom, I suppose, and access to everything culturally that I want to have access to.
ROSEMARY KAYESS: It’s about having access to the ordinary aspects of life– the every day, the mundane, the things that everybody does, yet so many people can be excluded from. You know, education, employment, marriage, family, relationships, friends– the very basic elements of our life– can be completely inaccessible for many, many members of our community.
DENISE BECKWITH: A good life for me is just like everybody else. It is whatever I choose it to be at the time that I’m making my goals, my ambitions, and I’m having my dreams. Do you know what I mean? But for a person with disability, a good life is often dictated, because it’s what other people think that people need. What can change and what needs to change is people’s attitudes so that the community is more embracing of diversity.

Now that we’ve talked a little bit about living a good life, and about diversity, inclusion, and belonging, let’s bring these different ideas together.

In the above video, various people who work in the area of disability provide their views on a good life.

One dominant theme from the video is the idea of freedom, choice and control — that a good life is an individual concept, and that this is no different for people with disabilities than it is for anyone else. Thinking about a good life in this way prompts us to ask questions about the various mechanisms through which diverse people can be enabled to craft their own good lives.

For all of the people in the video, connectedness to the wider human community is also a key element of a good life. This idea links quite strongly to the notions of human diversity and belonging that we introduced this week and suggests that embracing diversity and promoting inclusion and belonging are all important mechanisms for enabling a good life.

What have we learned this week?

In this first week, we began by framing disability as a dimension of human diversity. We highlighted the centrality of social inclusion in disability rights movements since the mid-20th century, where people with disabilities have fought against a long history of exclusion and segregation from mainstream society. But we also suggested that the concept of inclusion is itself limiting, and is only one step along a long journey.

We heard from a variety of people with disabilities about what it means to be included, and to belong, and we suggested that the term belonging may be a more useful way to think about the relationship of individuals with disabilities to wider communities.

Diversity, inclusion and belonging were also central themes in our discussions of a good life. Thinking critically about a good life requires an engagement with very diverse bodies, minds, perceptions and experiences. We can’t assume that there is a “normal” good life. In this sense, valuing a good life for everyone is one important way to challenge normative and/or “ableist” ways of organising society than can have disabling and exclusionary effects for people with a range of impairments.

This week we looked at the valuing of diversity and the promotion of inclusion and belonging as one means of enabling a good life. In upcoming weeks, we will look at other mechanisms for enabling a good life — such as applying human rights frameworks, promoting access, providing care and support, recognising diverse forms of contribution, and advocating for change.

Next week we will focus on the usefulness of human rights frameworks.

Talking points

  • Have your ideas about living a good life changed over the week?
  • Have your ideas about disability changed over the week?
  • What are you looking forward to exploring further?

In the next step, you can take a quiz to evaluate your understanding of the topics covered in Week 1. Then, you will have the opportunity to reflect on your learning goals.

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Disability and a Good Life: Working with Disability

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