Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
People with intellectual disabilities

People with intellectual disabilities: Towards a good life?

Kelley Johnson
Jan Walmsley
with Marie Wolfe
Copyright Date: 2010
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qgs22
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    People with intellectual disabilities
    Book Description:

    What does it mean to live a good life? Why has it proved so difficult for people with intellectual disabilities to live one? What happens when we make a good life the centre of our consideration of people with intellectual disabilities? These questions are explored through a re-examination of ideas from philosophy and social theory, and through personal life stories. This important and timely book provides an analysis and critique of current policies and underpinning ideologies in relation to people with intellectual disabilities and explores ways in which a good life may be made more attainable.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-897-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. iv-iv)
  4. Introduction: exploring a good life
    (pp. 1-14)

    This book is an exploration. In it we are revisiting ideas and models that may seem to be familiar territory to those working with or advocating for people with intellectual disabilities and trying to see them again from a different perspective. However, we are also seeking to explore new territory by examining how concepts and theories from outside the disability field or on its margins may contribute new understandings and allow us to think about the lives of people with intellectual disabilities differently.

    The end of our exploring is to understand better the nature of ‘a good life’ and how...

  5. Part One: Reflecting on a good life

    • ONE My own life
      (pp. 17-30)
      Marie Wolfe and Kelley Johnson

      Marie Wolfe’s life story is the story of one woman’s striving to define and achieve a good life on her own terms. We use it throughout the book as a reference point.

      Kelley writes:

      I met Marie through Josephine Flaherty who is both her friend and support worker. Marie wanted to tell her life story, but she wanted Josephine to be there as she told it. We met three times over 12 months. The first time we met in a hotel in Galway and talked about doing a life story and Marie talked a little about her life as it...

    • TWO Thinking about a good life
      (pp. 31-48)

      Marie’s search for a good life includes many of the ingredients that we commonly see as underpinning a good life: independence, a sense of ownership of her own life, a need for close and intimate relationships and meaningful work. But her attainment of these elements of a good life is fraught with difficulties and remains precarious, threatened by her view of her own fragility and the power exercised by others over her. Where did her view of a good life come from? Why is it so elusive? In this chapter and the next, we explore some of the ideas and...

    • THREE A good life and people with intellectual disabilities
      (pp. 49-60)

      Philosophical and social-theoretical accounts of what makes a good life seem far from the lived experience of people with intellectual disabilities. However, in this chapter we reflect on the implications of such theories and ideas for how a good life is framed and understood in the context of the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. In undertaking this task we explore the second of the questions that provide the framework for this book: what are the implications for people with intellectual disabilities of thinking about the good life?

      From the account in Chapter Two of some of the themes that...

  6. Part Two: Re-examining key concepts in the light of current practice

    • FOUR A good life in policy
      (pp. 63-80)

      This chapter uses policy developments, the ideas of campaigning theorists and the words of self-advocates themselves in the UK to provide a case study (which is broadly applicable to many other countries in Western Europe, Australasia, the USA and Canada) of changes that have sought to provide a ‘better’ life for people with intellectual disabilities. We argue that the term ‘good life’ is rarely used in these contexts. Rather policy makers either use undefined mantras such as ‘an ordinary life’ or a ‘life like any other’, or tightly defined terms such as normalisation, social role valorisation or the social model...

    • FIVE Changing problems, changing solutions
      (pp. 81-98)

      This chapter continues the theme of Part Two, tracing how we got to where we are today. In this chapter we examine changing assumptions about intellectual disability and their implications for a good life. In particular we explore how intellectual disability has been variously constructed as a problem and how ‘solutions’ to it have changed over time. We argue that despite dramatic changes in the way intellectual disability has been constructed since the early 20th century, there are continuities also, in the form of the creation of a binary – us and them – and a wish to diminish or...

    • SIX Changing constructions of work
      (pp. 99-110)

      ‘Paid work’ does not explicitly feature in the exploration of the meaning of a good life in Chapter Two. However, it resonates through some of the themes that we identified. In Bauman’s view of modern happiness, paid work is the means by which one can enter the pursuit of this elusive goal. The capacity to undertake paid work suggests an equality or citizenship that invites participation in the society and in the social contract that governs us. And paid work can be seen as one of the ways in which we exercise commitment and duty or virtue in our lives....

  7. Part Three: Rethinking a good life

    • [Part Three: Introduction]
      (pp. 111-114)

      In Part Three we seek to offer some alternative ways of thinking about a ‘good life’ for people with intellectual disabilities, and how we might move forward from the present impasse. We do so with some trepidation, knowing that better minds than ours have wrestled with such questions.

      We begin, in Chapter Seven, by looking at a term that is widely used, but rarely unpacked: ‘rights’. People’s ‘rights’ are frequently cited, their operationalisation rarely explicated. We explore Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities as an adjunct, to help think about what needs to be done if rights are to mean something in practice....

    • SEVEN Justice, rights and capabilities
      (pp. 115-130)

      This chapter is concerned with a central question: how far can the ideas embedded in contemporary views of rights and justice take us in the development of a good life for people with intellectual disabilities?

      Is there another word for rights. A lot of people (with intellectual disabilities) don’t know what rights mean.

      (Roberts, 2009)

      Like many other concepts addressed in this book, ‘rights’ is a generally used term, the meaning of which is seldom unpacked, and, as Bill Roberts says, for people with intellectual disabilities it can be a difficult one to explain in concrete terms. To describe the...

    • EIGHT Community, inclusion and belonging
      (pp. 131-150)

      This chapter addresses the questions:

      What are the implications of the ideas about a good life for the lives of people with intellectual disabilities?

      What values relevant to defining a good life underpin current disability theories, ideas and discourses?

      What contribution have these values made to the lives of people with intellectual disabilities?

      One of the strands of a good life identified in Chapter Two is that it is a life that balances virtue with pleasure, and duty with commitment; where human needs for work/purposeful activity and love/meaningful relationships are fulfilled. Fundamentally, it is a life lived with and for...

    • NINE Promoting a good life
      (pp. 151-170)

      Fortunately the feebleminded are much more easily made happy than a sane person. (Mary Dendy, quoted in McDonagh, 2008, p 321)

      “I think staff need training to be more confident, you know, and to speak the right way to me, you know, ’cos some of them can be a bit bossy you know. I think they need to really put their feet in my shoes, kind of.” (Marie Wolfe)

      In this chapter we continue our consideration of the implications of working towards a good life for the roles of those who support people with intellectual disabilities. Here we focus on...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 171-176)

    The cover for this book is a painting by Philip Kearney who is a disabled artist in Ireland. We chose this as the cover because it seemed an appropriate metaphor both for this book and for a good life.

    The good life as we understand it involves a journey. It is a voyage of discovery. We begin it at birth and end it probably with our death. We each set out in small boats on unknown seas. Some of us are better sailors than others and are well equipped for travel. Some of us have sturdier boats and more provisions....

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-198)
  10. Index
    (pp. 199-204)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-205)