Texts influencing the accommodation process of students with disabilities in professional rehabilitation programs: an analysis of discourse Academic Article uri icon

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  • Purpose

    Students with disabilities have lower enrollment and higher attrition than their non-disabled peers. They identify negative attitudes from educators in their accommodation experiences within professional programs, such as occupational therapy and physiotherapy. Educators in these accredited programs must address a myriad of requirements through curriculum delivery. The documents or "texts" containing program requirements include discourses or dominant understandings of reality. The purpose of this study is to identify these discourses and the resulting positions of educators, to better understand the tensions in accommodating students with disabilities.


    A critical discourse analysis study was conducted. Key informants and inclusion criteria led to the collection of 9 texts, which were subsequently analyzed using Norman Fairclough's three-dimensional conception of discourse.


    Three discourses were identified. "Rights and responsibilities" was the most salient discourse, followed by "normative assumptions" and then "inclusion and equity." The associated educator positions are "navigator," "gatekeeper" and "advocate," respectively.


    The discourses and resulting educator positions are varied and in conflict with one another. There is a potential for change in the social practices related to accommodating students with disabilities. However, these changes need to be conscious and deliberate to ensure inclusivity within the occupational therapy and physiotherapy professions.Implications for RehabilitationCritical discourse analysis is a methodology that can raise awareness of implicit assumptions embedded in texts that reflect and potentially perpetuate inequities and power imbalances.Conflicting discourses in the accommodation process provide a valuable opportunity for educators to critically reflect on personal and professional values and beliefs.Critical reflection on unconscious bias while writing policies and practices could ensure a more diverse pool of applicants for professional programs, thereby enriching rehabilitation professions.

publication date

  • January 2, 2023