Date of Award
Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)
Disabled Persons -- legislation & jurisprudence; Employment; Occupational Therapists; Students
This mixed-methods pilot study was conducted to provide insight into the experiences of occupational therapy practitioners and students with disabilities. The focus of this study was to analyze the effect of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) on access to reasonable accommodations. The researchers predicted that, although occupational therapy is a profession focused on advocacy for people with disabilities, reasonable accommodations are applied inconsistently for practitioners with disabilities within the OT field.
A Qualtrics survey was sent out to occupational therapists with disabilities in order to collect demographic data and select participants for interviews. Forty-three individuals completed the Qualtrics survey. These individuals were asked to rate their difficulty obtaining reasonable accommodations in their occupational therapy programs, fieldwork settings, and workplaces. The final question gave the participants the option to volunteer for a follow-up interview. Data from the survey was analyzed using SPSS.
Eight participants volunteered to participate in an in-depth qualitative interview. Five participants met the inclusion criteria of currently practicing occupational therapist, practicing in the United States, and graduated after 2011; all five individuals participated in a one-hour follow-up interview. The interviews focused on the participants’ experiences as occupational therapy practitioners with disabilities. The participants answered questions about the process of obtaining reasonable accommodations and disclosing their disabilities to faculty members, fieldwork supervisor, and employers. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded using qualitative analysis procedures.
The results of the Qualtrics survey were not statistically significant. However, it was found that as average difficulty obtaining accommodations increased, the average hours worked per week decreased. Additionally, when year of graduation was considered, it was found that average difficulty obtaining accommodations decreased for people graduating after the ADA was implemented in 1991 and then again for those who graduated after the amendment in 2008. It was noted in each graduation year grouping (before the ADA, before the ADAAA, and after implementation of the ADAAA) at least one person rated their difficulty obtaining accommodations as a seven or above and average difficulty in each category remained above a four.
The findings support a potential barrier to full-time work is access to reasonable accommodations. The researchers concluded that, although there has been a decrease in average difficulty obtaining accommodations, there is still a need for improvement. The qualitative interviews resulted in the following assertion: Occupational therapists with disabilities continue to face discrimination in school, fieldwork, and workplace settings in the form of a lack of access to reasonable accommodations. Those who were unable to obtain reasonable accommodations credited their challenges to internal, external, and systematic barriers, whereas those who experienced success in obtaining reasonable accommodations credited their success to strong support systems and self-advocacy skills. Despite possible challenges, occupational therapists with disabilities valued their place in the field of occupational therapy, believing they brought a unique set of skills and perspective to the profession.
Guenther, Samantha and Huss, Anna, "The Experience of Occupational Therapy Practitioners and Students with Disabilities: A Mixed-Methods Pilot Study" (2017). Occupational Therapy Capstones. 356.