Dispelling the Disability Stereotype: Embracing a Universalistic Perspective of Disablement
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BACKGROUND: The notion of universalism was introduced to me during my first year of PhD studies in Rehabilitation Science. During a class discussion, we debated the merits of two theoretical perspectives that offered contradicting views as to the most effective means to facilitating a shift in societal perceptions of disability. As exemplified by the World Health Organization's current model of health, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), there has been a shift from a minority group analysis towards a universalistic perspective of disablement. PURPOSE: This paper introduces readers to the underlying concepts of both minority group analysis and universalism and, in doing so, proposes that universalism is closely aligned with the underlying constructs of occupational therapy. Universalism provides a comprehensive framework that can be utilized by occupational therapists to encourage the development of health and social-related policies that promote inclusiveness, yet still the respect the differences that exist among individuals. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS By improving their familiarity with such theories, occupational therapists may be better positioned to contribute to policy development within their respective treatment and/or community settings.
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