Abstract

Policy shifts toward fostering community inclusion of persons with disabilities have brought community attitudes (including attitudes of professionals) into sharper focus as a cause for concern. Using a social distance scale, this study examined the attitudes of cohorts of occupational therapy and business students toward persons with psychiatric and other disorders. Contrary to expectations, occupational therapy seniors did not demonstrate significantly different attitudes from occupational therapy freshmen. Although freshman occupational therapy students expressed a desire to maintain less social distance from persons with various disabilities than did freshman business students, there was nonetheless a hierarchy of preference for persons with certain disabilities over others. This order of preference had only weak stability between cohorts, with persons with psychiatric disabilities consistently ranking among the least favored. It is proposed that occupational therapy curricula attend to students’ attitudes toward persons with psychiatric and other disabilities. To this end, certain strategies to enrich students’ education are suggested.

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