Use of the L’Arche philosophy in assisting people with disabilities to overcome social barriers

Author: Hong Suk Lee

Lee, Hong Suk, 2021 Use of the L’Arche philosophy in assisting people with disabilities to overcome social barriers, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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The Australian government has adopted the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to develop more accessible and inclusive policies for people with disabilities. However, many people with disabilities continue to suffer social exclusion and face multiple barriers to community inclusion. This study uses the example of L’Arche (the Ark) communities to determine how Christian values and practices might address the plight of people with disabilities through the development of social groups. Social isolation severely affects people with disabilities, and the implementation of L’Arche principles might help to create inclusive communities for them. This study explores the social barriers to establishing L’Arche communities based on Christian faith principles. In undertaking the study, I conducted a review of historical and biblical literature and deployed an interpretative social science approach. To provide its terminological framework, the study defines the terms ‘disability’, ‘persons with disabilities’, ‘suffering’ and ‘barriers’. This methodological procedure was necessitated by shifts in the study of disability and its impact on individuals and communities. Historically, an individual with disabilities was viewed as ill and in need of medical assistance. This view has been displaced by a model in which people with disabilities are perceived as appropriate recipients of community and relational support. This theoretical shift lacks a theological justification and biblical grounding. This study therefore provides a theological perspective for understanding the L’Arche community and its Christian foundations. This study emphasises the key values underlying the theory, method and practice of L’Arche communities. These values comprise the following: the insistence that all persons are valuable; an anti-hierarchical “ladder” perspective; the promotion of communion and social inclusion; and the encouragement of friendship. Moreover, the study provides a first-hand narrative to show how these values are lived daily in L’Arche communities. This study proposes these values as the basis for overcoming the barriers to adapting the L’Arche philosophy. The study confirms the L’Arche community's capacity to unify itself and to address the role played by its residents and their lives through unifying intentional communities and deaing with the challenges and barriers faced by residents in their lives.

Keywords: L'arche community, L’Arche Philosophy, Assisting People with Disabilities, Overcome Social Barriers for People with Disabilities, Christian and people with disabilities

Subject: Theology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2021
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Paul Goh