Data collection for the development of the stories was based on narrative inquiry technique — storytelling. In this context, we can understand a story as universal language full of meaning, symbolism — as something that enables us to better understand the world we live in. In practice, narrative inquiry offers us a framework through which we can explore the human experience. 1 With this technique, we aim to understand the meaning of personal stories of people who have specific life experience — in our case, it was the experience of people living with a physical or mental form of disability. How does this experience affect their relationships?
The advantage of this technique is that it allows the respondent to raise and give meaning to topics that are most important for the given individual at the moment. The emphasis is placed on their perspective and understanding of life and the world. For us, this aspect of narrative inquiry was key. We aimed to create stories that will only reflect relationships and themes of people living with some form of disability that are significant for them. This way, we wanted to bring into the discussion with young people perspectives and context that, for a person without experience with disability, can be new knowledge.
Webster, Leonard, and Patricie Mertova. Using Narrative Inquiry as a Research Method. Routledge, 2007. ↩︎
Group size is flexible but should not exceed 30 participants. During the activity, participants are divided into 4 smaller groups.
a set of story-related worksheets
Divide participants into 4 groups. Each group finds a place (ideally) without distractions from the other groups. First, all groups will receive the introductory worksheet with questions and the worksheet with an illustration. For now, we will not hand out the story sheet and the sheet for reflecting on participants’ initial answers. Each group’s task is to think about the questions and answer them in the context of the illustration. They can write their answers down directly into the intro worksheet.
Allow enough time (at least 15 minutes) for the discussion of questions; before the time limit is up, ask groups whether they need some extra time. If yes and the situation allows it, let them work longer. If not, assure all groups that we will collectively come back to the questions and stories later.
As soon as the participants have finished their work in groups, they will receive the next worksheet — the worksheet with a story. Each group reads the story worksheet to understand the context of the illustration with which they worked in the previous part of the activity.
After reading the story, the groups return to the intro worksheet with questions and their initial answers. Now, each group’s task is to reflect on whether they would or would not change their initial answers after they have read the story which expands on the illustration and provides some context. When reflecting on the initial answers, the following questions — which are included on the worksheet with questions for reflection on the initial answers — can be helpful:
How did we initially interpret the story based on the illustration? According to us, what was happening in the illustration?
Has our initial interpretation of the illustration differed from the actual story which we subsequently read? If yes, in what specifically did our initial interpretation differ from the actual story?
What did we base our initial interpretation of the introductory illustration on? Which aspects of our initial interpretation were the most important to us?
During our interpretation of the introductory illustration, did any of our expectations, assumptions, or stereotypes play a role in influencing our perception of the illustration? If yes, which assumptions and/or stereotypes are we talking about?
Due to the illustration and the written story, has our perception of the relationship dynamics of people living with disabilities changed? Has it impacted our perception of their needs in relationships?
Was the actual story rewarding; did you learn something new?
After reading about these actual stories, did we learn a lesson that we may apply in our relationships as well?
Reserve approximately 30 minutes for reading the story and reflecting on the initially answered questions. Answers to the questions can be written down directly on the worksheet with the questions. Inform all groups during this activity that they will present their results in the plenary. Next, ask participants to form a circle and proceed with the conclusion and reflection on the activity.
Before beginning the activity itself, it is suitable to introduce the participants to the topic according to the section Introduction to the aspect. It explains what are we going to deal with and why, the fact stories were created based on real interviews with young people with various forms of disability, what language it is suitable to use, etc.
Although the introductory worksheet with questions should be enough to guide groups through the process, it is suitable that the facilitator is present during the time groups are working — in case the participants will not understand some part of the activity or will need some other form of support.
During reflecting on their initial answers, it is suitable to assure the groups once again that this activity does not aim at finding the correct answers. It is highly probable that initial answers to the introductory questions will differ from the actual story which the groups have read. The difference itself and comparison of the initial notions with reality are key elements of this activity.
Key part of the activity is the moment in which the groups reflect on their initial answers in the context of the actual story. At this point, participants unpick their stereotypes and assumptions that we may have about people with various forms of disability. At this point of the workshop, the participants begin to better understand the dynamics of relationships that young people with disabilities develop or build; simultaneously, the participants begin to understand various challenges or problems these people may encounter in their relationships.
Ask each group one by one to summarize — based on their worksheet with questions for reflection on the initial answers — the most important information: What was their initial interpretation of the illustration? What was the actual story about? In what and why did their interpretation differ from the actual story? In what ways have their perception of the story changed? We can let the groups pass the illustration corresponding to the presented story around or use a video projector for this.
After each presentation, we leave room for questions from other groups and for a discussion. Frame the discussion according to the theoretical background corresponding to the particular story. Each theoretical background can be very helpful to precisely unpick specific stereotypes that we have about people with disabilities. At the same time, it will help us to understand the dynamics of these stereotypes and assumptions as well as their social repercussions.
Pick the groups for the final reflection randomly — for example, for picking a group, the facilitator can cast lots, count off. Alternatively, groups can throw a ball between them to determine the order of presentations.