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Research on Researchers: Sheenagh interviews Ann-Louise Davidson

May 29, 2013

Ann-Louise DavidsonWe were recently introduced to the work of Ann-Louise Davidson and are really excited by her collaborative methods, her insights into the lives of folks with disabilities, her partnership with an agency that we admire a lot, LiveWorkPlay, and her most recent work around using technology to foster independence through the use of Ipads.   She took some time from her busy schedule to talk to Sheenagh about her work and her partnership with LiveWorkPlay.  

1) Ann-Louise, could you please tell me about LiveWorkPlay? 
LiveWorkPlay is a charitable organization based in Ottawa. They started as a day centre and have been so focused at integrating their clients to the community and the workplace, that they had to change their organizational model because of their success. LiveWorkPlay is no longer a day centre, but an organization which provides services to their clients who are busy living on their own, working, participating in community activities and chilling with friends. The CEO, Keenan Wellar and the President, Julie Kingstone are the two co-founders and they are amazingly humble about their success. You can find out more about them here.

2) Can you tell me about the “on our own together” projects?
It was a project that took place in 2004. We accompanied 14 adults with an intellectual disability who were trying out what it was to live on their own while living for a period of two months in a student university residence. It was a great challenge!

3) You obviously feel it is important to include people with intellectual disabilities in your research – can you talk about some of the tools  you have used to help facilitate this research?
I have conducted several projects with people with intellectual disabilities. All of my projects use action-research methodology. I use a collection of tools called SAS2 that allow to collect, analyze and interpret data with participants. There are about 50 tools that were created by Jacques Chevalier and Daniel Buckles. The allow data collection at all stages of the research -ex. planning, action, evaluation. I spent a year as postdoctoral fellow at Carleton University with prof. Chevalier, to learn how to best exploit these tools in action. You can read more about these tools here: http://www.sas2.net

4) Access to employment for people with intellectual disabilities keeps coming up in all the interviews I have done in this “Researching Researchers” series – what do you and your research partners think are some of the side benefits of employment for them?
Having paid work enables people to fully take part in (the capitalist) society. It is an enabler of well-being. When a person has a paid job, they feel as though they have a role to play in the work force and they can spend money they earned on goods they choose to consume. I’m not saying that consuming should make us happy, on the contrary. However, even people who choose to live on the fringe experience a certain level of suffering when they live in voluntary simplicity. The fact is that we are bombarded with publicity and we have needs that go beyond what we can produce with our hands. I could go on and on with this speech, but what I mean is that being able to buy something with money we earned is, in this society, a wonderful feeling of being able to exercise our human agency.

5) Why do you think it is important for people with intellectual disabilities to use video and mobile technology?
We live in a connected world and having the minimal level of technological competencies is a must for everyone. The way I see the use of technology is not traditional. I don’t advocate for using technologies in a perspective of consumption ie. sit in front of the Internet and consume GBs or watch TV. I really think that mobile technologies and video production have become so user-friendly that everyone can learn how to use such technologies to serve their purpose, get their message out there, become models for others who need inspiration, feel good about contributing to the Web. This is what I call the emancipatory use of technology.

6) Can you tell me about someone with a disability who has been important to you?
They all are. I think they are kind and authentic. Just as an aside, sometimes people tell me: Ah it’s such a pity. I don’t think it’s a pity. I think it’s a fact of human life. We’re not all the same. That’s all.  What is a pity is the fact that we don’t acknowledge their full participation in society and we don’t value their contribution the same way as other people. This is a capitalist tragedy.

7) I read your inclusive research paper on employment and the one on the use of technology. Your research partners in those projects all have mild to moderate disabilities. I wonder whether you think there is any benefit in this research for people with more severe disabilities?
The research I do relates to self-empowerment and positive life changes with digital technologies. People with severe disabilities could definitely benefit from such mobile technologies, but this is beyond my area of expertise as I haven’t worked extensively with this population..

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 29, 2013 12:00 pm

    Another great interview, Sheenagh. I learn something everytime I read your work. Thank you!

  2. May 29, 2013 5:59 pm

    It’s amazing to think we are going on 10 years of involvement by Professor Davidson in various LiveWorkPlay projects and initiatives, and of course research that she and he colleagues have initiated. Sheenagh what can I say these interviews are all fantastic.

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