Importance: A key objective of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is community integration; yet, nearly 30 yr later, little is known about the participation of people with disabilities who transition from institutions to the community.
Objective: To understand how people with disabilities describe full participation after transitioning from an institution to the community and to identify environmental barriers and facilitators to participation during and after this transition.
Design: The ADA–Participatory Action Research Consortium (ADA–PARC), a collaboration among researchers, people with disabilities, and community organizations, is implementing a multimethod, participatory action research study of participation among people with disabilities posttransition. This article presents qualitative findings from semistructured interviews collected as part of the larger ADA–PARC project.
Setting: ADA–PARC community partners across the United States.
Participants: One hundred fifty-three adults with disabilities.
Outcomes and Measures: We used a semistructured interview guide to ask participants about their experiences during and after transition to the community.
Results: We identified four themes: (1) the process of transition as ongoing rather than a single event, (2) access to everyday occupations as full participation and what fully represents “living a life,” (3) environmental barriers to participation, and (4) social identity as participation as the transformative process of moving from the disempowering isolation of the institution to being integrated into the community.
Conclusions and Relevance: As people with disabilities transition into community settings, they require ongoing supports to facilitate their full, long-term participation.
What This Article Adds: People with disabilities reported that transitioning from institutions to the community was itself not enough to support their full community participation; rather, they viewed transition as an ongoing process, and they needed services and supports to fully participate. Occupational therapy practitioners working in institutional and community settings can partner with local disability advocacy communities to support their clients’ sense of identity and self-confidence during and after transition to the community.