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Expanding ideas about contribution

In this video, Therese Sands and Gwynnyth Llewellyn share their views on contribution and disability.
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MAN: FutureLearn. [THEME MUSIC] UNSW Australia. Contribution and disability.
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THERESE SANDS: People with disability are seen as passive, recipients of care, inactive, not able, can’t do things. So they’re not seen as contributors. And we see that in many headlines, such as “bludgers,” “dole bludgers,” “DSP,” “scum,” whatever. That is a regular, regular headlines that we see in relation to people with disability– they’re non-contributors and they are living on welfare.
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I think it’s really important to connect contribution to people with disability so that we can dispel this myth that people with disability are passive recipients of care and somehow are draining on society and that there is a role and a value that people with disability– regardless of the level of support need– there is a value that that person plays in society. People with disability contribute in many, many ways. They’re contributing through economic participation, by raising families, by being mothers and fathers, by having dreams, by being artists. There’s a whole range of ways people with disability contribute. It’s just we don’t see it often represented in society that that’s what’s happening.
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So it’s not represented in the media, it may not be represented in television, or in a whole range of ways.
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GWYNNYTH LLEWELLYN: The notion of contribution to society is very value-laden. Clearly it has to do with the majority views in a society. For example, in Australia right now, productivity and economic productivity is the most highly held value. Several years ago, we actually had a board called the Social Inclusion Board in our federal government, because social inclusion and social participation was a highly valued– had a high value. These things change. They’re not static. They change with different governments, different philosophies, different times. But the real issue, I think, is recognising that people with impairments who are disabled in their environments are actually understood to even be there. Let me just give you an example.
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In the Millennium Development Goals, there was no mention of disability. Now the Millennium Development Goals are agreed by the UN, the United Nations, and they finished in 2015. They’re a 15-year, from the millennium to 2015. No mention of disability. How do you then recognize that people with impairments, who are disabled in their environments– how do you recognize them? How do you even think what participation might be? In the new Sustainable Development Goals approved by the United Nations General Assembly in New York, there are seven mentions of disability. Now that, to me, starts to talk to the concept of participation.

Despite the common representation of disabled people in Western societies as people who don’t contribute, people with disabilities do contribute in a multitude of different ways.

The presenters in the above video explain how one’s context — policy context, cultural context, etc. — can influence the way they define and value contribution.

When the course team talked about how we felt we contribute, the discussion went beyond the idea of giving money or goods. We talked about contributing to the care and support of others, about being involved in our local communities and other groups, and about giving love to people we deeply care about.

So why is it that one dominant perception of people with disabilities is an assumed inability to contribute? Why are disabled people often assumed to be just passive receivers of other peoples’ contributions? We will explore this in more detail in the next steps.

Both Therese and Gwynnyth talk about how important it is that disabled people are even understood be present in society, and how this understanding can be promoted by the authentic representation of people with disabilities in the popular media. If you’d like to explore this further, you can jump ahead to Step 5.13 – Extending your knowledge: The importance of representation. If you do jump ahead, make sure you return to complete any steps you have missed.

Talking points

  • What types of contributions do the video presenters describe?
  • How are ideas about contribution affected by the economic, social and political context?
  • What did you find most interesting and/or challenging from this video?

In the next step, Mel discusses her ideas about contribution.

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