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  4. The life of a Greek man with learning difficulties

The life of a Greek man with learning difficulties

Godfred Boahen

In this paper I tell the life story of a young Greek man called Abrax who was involved in research I conducted and was labelled as 'learning disabled' at the time. I will discuss Abrax's life from birth but concentrate on the importance of culture to the care that he received. Abrax was labelled as 'profoundly disabled' - he did not use words to communicate but made single sounds to express his wishes. Abrax also did not have any control over his body so he needed other people to meet all his self-care needs.

Abrax's life is worth discussing because it shows the contradictions in the stories told about the culture of disabled people who are not white, and highlights that the decisions made about them have profound impact on their later lives. When I met Abrax, I noticed that everyone called him 'Bob', which is a typical British name very different from his Greek ancestry and tradition. 'Bob' was so established as Abrax's identity that even his parents referred to him as such but no one seemed to know or question how he acquired an identity preferred by white people. Abrax's parents also told me that in his culture, his family are required to care for him, yet they decided to place him in supported accommodation away from home. However in Abrax's residence, his culture was recognised and valued, which led to very personalised care.

In this presentation, I will argue that Abrax's biography shows that currently, the power exercised over people labelled as 'disabled' is subtler and probably more difficult to notice. I will also show some of the difficult moral issues I addressed in obtaining stories about Abrax from other people (and not himself) and how I got to more accurate accounts about Abrax's life.

View the PowerPoint presentation


Godfred Boahen - I am a qualified social worker with practice experience in services for disabled children and adults. I completed my PhD, titled "Ethnicity, Learning Disability and the Mental Capacity Act 2005: a Social Constructionist Ethnography of an Integrated Service" at The Open University. Currently, I am a Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Kent. I am interested in researching the lives of disabled people from black and ethnic minority communities and mental capacity issues.

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About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

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