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disability/disabled?

March 18, 2012

I have developed a 6 session short course introducing occupational therapy students to disability studies.  Before I send it off to universities, I am discussing the course content with disabled people.  One of my purposes for developing the course is to encourage occupational therapy students to really listen to the people they serve.  So I thought I had better listen to the people we serve.

So far, I have had two introductory phone calls with people.  I find it interesting that both people don’t seem to consider themselves disabled.  They both describe how their engagement in occupations (OK, that is OT jargon – their activities) are limited by the physical – and in one case also the social – environment.  In some ways, this reinforces one thing I have learned from disability studies.  People’s impairments – cerebral palsy, arthritis, intellectual impairment, anxiety etc. – are not what disables people.  Our society disables people.  That isn’t to say that these conditions don’t have inherent aspects that need to be addressed.  For example the pain of arthritis is real.  It has nothing to do with society.  But it seems to me that it shows that at least these two people whom I have identified as disabled, have not taken ‘disabled’ into their identity.

I have ‘othered’ them.  How do I talk about what I do without separating myself from my clients?  I am an occupational therapist.  I work with and for people to remove barriers to their participation in activities that are important to them?  What do you think?

Sheila Howick Hamilton

northern ot

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From → labels/diagnoses

2 Comments
  1. Why thank you Noreen. You left me speechless 😉 with your comment. I do like describing my job as helping to reduce barriers to people participating in activities that are meaningful to them.

  2. Noreen permalink

    What do I think? I think you are amazing. 🙂

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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