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The work of access

In this video, different people with disabilities share their experiences of access.

Last week we looked at discrimination and the ways in which moral and legal frameworks based on human rights can help prevent different forms of discrimination and enable a good life.

Several times during Weeks 1 and 2, our presenters have mentioned “access” as being fundamental to living a good life. This week, we explore what is meant by access and why it is so important for people with disabilities. We introduce different forms of access, explore how lack of access is a cause of discrimination, and examine why so many barriers to access still exist and ways in which inequalities in access are being challenged.

This week we also challenge common ideas about access and what is “normal”. Access is often treated as a straightforward problem of accommodating bodily or mental difference. The assumption is that having an impairment is what creates limitations in access. Instead, we suggest that the problem of access is more structural than that — that it begins with able-bodied society’s assumptions about what is normal. When our everyday practices and routines start from the needs of non-disabled bodies, disability access is viewed as something that must be added on to the “normal” ways of doing things.

The term “access” is a slippery one. In relation to disability we often use it to mean getting to a place — such as gaining access to a building — but of course we also access people, information and services. We may have different levels of access to education or employment. So first, we want to open up the variety of types of access, by listening to the diverse experiences of people with disabilities.

In the video above, some of our guest presenters talk about what access means to them. As you watch, reflect on the different examples they describe from their own lives. Why is it important for them to be able to achieve what they want in life, without barriers? How do they define access?

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

Talking points

  • Can you think of examples when you or others in your life have had access restricted?
  • What would have enabled greater access in the example from your own life?
  • How important do you think societal attitudes are to lack of access for people with disabilities?

In the next step we introduce different types of access.

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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