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Dr. Susan Powell: interview by Sheenagh Morrison from our “Researching Researchers” series

May 31, 2012

Question #1: You’ve been a good friend to people with disabilities for a long time, in a bunch of different ways. What are you currently doing that has to do with them?


Answer #1: Currently I am working with a group of 6 self advocates on a book. We are developing a children’s picture book. The self-advocates have described to me, and to the photographer Larry Wells, the everyday experiences and ideas they think are important to include in the book. Over the next several weeks we will be going out into the community and taking photographs of the self-advocates. The book is an alphabet book so we will be taking photos to show ideas for each letter of the alphabet. We hope to have the book published Fall 2012.


Question #2: What do you think research brings to people with disabilities?


Answer #2:  Research, particularly research that involves people with disabilities directing the questions or describing what is important to them, can help do many things. It can support people to:

  Identify important issues

  Open up to listening better

  Consider different perspectives on an issue

  Think differently

  Make changes

  Move causes/issues forward

  Do things differently or rethink how things are done now


Question #3: What kind of educational opportunities would you like to see for adults with disabilities? For their families? For those who support them?


Answer #3: I think it is important to ask adults with disabilities, workers and families what they want in the way of educational opportunities. I think it is important to teach and learn together. That being said, I am a teacher by profession, so I think education and learning are very important.


I would like to see adults with disabilities involved in educational opportunities that look at:


  Facilitation skills

  Research roles

  Technology in the work place


  Running a business

  Community Building


I would like to see people who support adults with disabilities involved in educational opportunities that look at:



  Literacy development in adults with developmental disabilities

  Augmentative and alternative communication


  Reflective practice

  Person centered thinking

I would like to see families involved in educational opportunities that look at:


  What’s new and how this can enhance the quality of life of their son or daughter

  Supporting people in adulthood


You can see I have lots of ideas! It will be good to hear back what others think of these ideas and get even more ideas. It would be a great question to ask individuals, workers and families to answer as well.


Question #4: Can you tell a brief story about one of your friends who have a disability and what you think they bring to their community?


Answer #4: Recently a friend of mine who has a disability was meeting a co-worker. They were going to do an interview together. They got a ride to the interview, but had to take public transportation home. The co-worker was very nervous as she was in a part of the Lower Mainland that was unfamiliar to her. My friend helped her figure out the route and then got on the bus with her (even though this was taking him in a different direction than his own home). He went all the way with her until they got to a sky train station that she knew. Then he waited with her at the station until she got on the train. My friend showed great caring, empathy and support to his co-worker. As well, he used his expertise about the public transportation system to problem solve someone else’s dilemma.


Question #5: Is there anything else you’d like to say?


Answer#5: I recently have had several opportunities to hear self-advocates talk about their lives and hopes. I have been deeply moved by their insights and their stories.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jule Hopkins permalink
    June 1, 2012 8:55 am

    Susan – can’t wait to see the finished book. It will take an important place in my library. I have been hearing what great fun the storytellers are having with you on this project.

  2. June 1, 2012 8:02 pm

    Great interview, Sheenagh. Can’t wait to see the book too! Thanks for all the great ideas.

  3. Jerry Laidlaw permalink
    June 26, 2012 6:15 pm

    lookforward to seeing the book hope to work with Susan again ..Jerry

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