Negative attitudes exhibited by rehabilitation professionals could have adverse consequences for persons with disabilities in their achievement of desired outcomes. Because occupational therapists are in a position to exert considerable influence in the therapeutic relationship, this study explored entry-level occupational therapy practitioners’ equal status contact with and attitudes toward persons with disabilities.
Method. Questionnaires were sent to 402 entry-level occupational therapists. These questionnaires consisted of: a demographic scale, the Disability Social Distance Scale, the Contact With Disabled Persons Scale, and a Similarity Scale (constructed for this study to evaluate the concept of equal status). Data analysis explored the relationship between 172 respondents’ equal status perception and contact with persons with disabilities and their attitudes toward persons with disabilities.
Results. Respondents exhibited generally positive attitudes toward persons with disabilities. Perceived equality, personal and professional contact, and the majority of demographic factors were not significantly corrected with their attitudes toward persons with disabilities. Respondents who specified working with persons without disabilities in the wellness capacity exhibited more positive attitudes than those working with persons with biomechanical and neurological disabilities. In addition, respondents who had a greater frequency of professional contact with persons with disabilities also appeared to experience more personal contact with persons with disabilities.
Conclusion. Entry-level occupational therapists’ attitudes toward persons with disabilities may not only be influenced by parameters of the contact variable but also by the profession’s holistic philosophy, the occupational therapy educational curricula, and the personal characteristics of those who choose to pursue a career in occupational therapy.