Building Bridges of Understanding: Persons with Disabilities Empowered by Opportunities for Expression and Social Experiences in a Writing Group
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Health literacy is an important public health issue, especially for persons with disabilities who may have difficulties obtaining - and ultimately understanding - information about their personal health (Health Resources and Services Administration, 2017). Being literate, specifically in the areas of health information and services, empowers all individuals; allowing them to be knowledgeable not only in the health resources that are available to them but also to the possibility of taking ownership of their own personal health. This research extends previous case study research that explored the personal attitudes and experiences with health and health literacy of persons with disabilities and their program coordinators. This case study also expands research, which had been based solely upon interviews and surveys, to include adult participant observations of writing group sessions and the analysis of works written by persons with disabilities in writing group sessions over the course of eight (8) weeks. The writing group sessions took place in a classroom located in a community setting – a makerspace. A makerspace is a creative space where people can gather to create, invent, and learn, which allowed participants to directly engage with the Arts while at the same time, providing the opportunity for and possibly promoting, true community integration (Makerspaces.com, 2017). This study examines how five (5) persons with disabilities, between 18 – 30 years of age, perceive and write about health in writing group sessions. Additionally, reflective interviews were used to triangulate observations and writing analysis. Findings from this case study contribute to the expansion of greater health understanding and empowerment of persons with disabilities. Additionally, the findings inform the field of the importance of arts integration and social interactions on how information is relayed, and ultimately processed, by persons with disabilities.In order to examine the various ways that persons with disabilities perceive and write about heath, this study is framed by the following research questions:1. In what ways do persons with disabilities participate in writing group, including using modes of expression? 2. In what ways do persons with disabilities speak to their disabilities and their health perceptions and needs in a writing group setting? 3. What role, if any, does composing in a writing group play in empowering persons with disabilities?Throughout this project, I set out to explore the connections between the Arts and health literacy and how they each spoke to and ultimately empowered, persons with disabilities. In this research, I considered the data in relation to these questions and how the responses to the questions aid in gaining a better understanding of how these areas impact each other at their point of intersection.