An Overview Of The Occupational Therapy Study

Who Is Involved?

It was conducted by CQL and Rush University. Participants represented three different universities.

When Did It Start?

The multi-year occupational therapy research project was first launched in 2017. It is a ongoing study into how attitudes change over time.

What Is The Project?

The project will examine how OT students’ attitudes about disability may change over time in reaction to coursework and clinical placements.

Why Was It Created?

Exploring OT curricular influences on attitudes provides invaluable information during a paradigm shift to social models of intervention.

Where Is The Impact?

This study involves participants of incoming cohorts from graduate level accredited OT programs at three universities, tracking them over time.

How Does It Help The Field?

Findings from this study can inform occupational therapy on curriculum design to ensure it promotes the equality of people with disabilities.

Inside The Occupational Therapy Study

Understanding the role different understandings of disability have on professional development will help OT be more social justice oriented – more clearly identify and meet the needs of the disability community. Educational programs have an obligation to understand how new knowledge is translated and integrated by future clinicians.


This study’s understanding of disability is grounded in disability studies’ social model; a socio-political reframing that theorizes disability as social, political, and cultural. In opposition to the medical model, which sees disability as due to deficits or deviance and portrays humans as “alterable” and society as “fixed,” the social model locates the problem of disability within society.


OT has acknowledged critiques from the disability community of the negative impact on clients with interventions driven by locating disability solely within the individual. OT has a growing emphasis on client-centered practice and social justice that aligns with the social model of disability that locates disability in social barriers.


The study uses survey methods, including The Disability Attitude Implicit Association Test (DA-IAT) and the Symbolic Ableism Scale (SAS). We also conducted qualitative interviews  about students’ attitudes towards and understandings of disability.


Qualitative analysis using theoretical thematic analysis will be completed for the following data: interviews; reflections; and, qualitative survey answers. After immersion in the data, the data will be examined for patterns across the data and initial codes will be generated. These codes will be grouped into themes, which will be presented in terms of major and minor themes. Quantitative analyses will be conducted for all other data.

Research Partners

For this study we partnered with Rush University.

Rush University

Rush University is the academic enterprise of Rush University Medical Center, an Illinois non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation.


Rush University

Contact CQL

Please fill out the form below and our team will follow up with you.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.