Abstract

Importance: In 2005, the American Journal of Occupational Therapy published a special issue focused on disability studies. Contributing authors challenged readers to reflect on their practices and recommended ways to change the field, yet literature on the current state of the integration of disability studies into occupational therapy is scarce.

Objective: To engage the original authors of the 2005 special issue in an examination of perspectives on how disability studies perspectives have contributed to changes within occupational therapy and what work remains.

Design: The research team conducted semistructured interviews with 11 authors who published an article in the special issue. Interview transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis. Triangulation of coders, multiple phases of data analysis, and member checking were used to establish trustworthiness.

Results: Five themes emerged from the data: (1) exposure to disability and disability studies, (2) impact of the special issue on occupational therapy, (3) changes observed in occupational therapy beyond the special issue, (4) challenges integrating disability studies into occupational therapy, and (5) disability studies–informed recommendations for occupational therapy.

Conclusions and Relevance: Although the original contributing authors acknowledged the transformative impact of disability studies on their own practice and scholarship, the results suggest that disability studies remains outside mainstream occupational therapy scholarship. Exploring the connections and divergence between disability studies and fields such as occupational science could improve understanding of how disability studies concepts are defined and used in theory and practice.

What This Article Adds: Since the publication of the original special issue in 2005, the field of disability studies has continued to influence occupational therapy, although more often in individual than in systemic ways. Work is needed to embrace a disability studies–informed critical and intersectional foundation for the profession and explore the ways in which occupational therapy can better partner with populations through a disability studies lens.

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