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Global Considerations of Disability for Rehabilitation Providers

Large group of people posing for a photo on the steps of a building. Global Considerations of Disability for Rehabilitation Providers | June 13-15, 2022


Online only. Course will be live approximately 8:00am-12:00pm (Montreal time) each day June 13-15, 2022. Live content will be recorded.


This course will help rehabilitation providers engage with disability in a complex and globalizing world. Through interactive and community-building activities, participants will expand their understandings of disability and the contributions that rehabilitation providers can make to improve the situation of persons with disabilities worldwide.


Shaun Cleaver, PhD
Faculty Lecturer, School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Sidhiprada Mohapatra, MPT
Assistant Professor, Department of Physiotherapy, Manipal College of Health Professions, Manipal Academy of Higher Education


Faculty are still being confirmed.


Rehabilitation providers strive to facilitate improved function, health, and quality of life for their clients. Whereas the field of rehabilitation is broad and diverse – including providers who are members of the rehabilitation professions, like physiotherapists, and providers involved in complementary rehabilitation activities, like individuals supporting community-based rehabilitation programs – rehabilitation providers are united by the drive for enhanced function, better health, and improved quality of life.

With rehabilitation’s focus on function, its activities are often targeted towards those who have the greatest problems functioning: “the disabled,” or alternatively, “persons with disabilities.” While the numbers of persons with disabilities worldwide are large and growing, estimated by the World Health Organization and World Bank in 2011 to be one-person-in-seven, or over one billion people. Given that populations internationally are aging, that more people are living with chronic conditions, and that notions of disability are becoming more comprehensive and better known, it is foreseeable that the estimated number of persons with disabilities will continue to grow. Demographic prominence alone has unfortunately not transformed the experience of living with a disability: persons with disabilities continue to face frequent societal exclusion because of barriers to participation in education, employment, healthcare, and social activities.

Rehabilitation providers worldwide face paradoxical positions relative to disability: whereas rehabilitation can offer essential support and care to persons with disabilities, rehabilitation can also perpetuate ableism, the oppression of persons with disabilities. Examples of ableism perpetuated by rehabilitation include the reinforcement of discourses of normality and the concentration of power and resources into institutions and professional activities at the expense of initiatives led by the disabled.

The predicament of rehabilitation providers is understandable: disability is a complex phenomenon that can be conceptualized in multiple ways while the field of rehabilitation has tended to prioritize action over reflection. In addition to the longstanding paradox of disability and rehabilitation, issues like the global environmental crisis and cultural diversity have moved from marginality to become important concerns, further complexifying the role of rehabilitation providers.

Given the complexities of rehabilitation in globalizing contexts, this new summer institute course aims to equip rehabilitation providers to engage proactively with disability. Course content will expand the perspectives of rehabilitation providers with respect to understanding disability as a societal and human rights concern. Course delivery will include interactive and community-building activities to encourage collective learning and independent development.


By the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Explain key concepts from disability studies and discuss their application to rehabilitation practice.
  • Describe the nuances of disability as seen through the lenses of human rights, diversity, and intersectionality.
  • Define ableism and identify ways in which ableism can be reproduced through rehabilitation.
  • Discuss the construction of disability and examine how diverse cultural and environmental contexts will influence experiences of disability.


The targeted audience for the summer school will include rehabilitation professionals from the disciplines of:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Nursing
  • Clinical or Rehabilitation Psychology
  • Social work
  • Individuals involved in disability advocacy
  • Certified recreation therapists
  • Other professions
  • Students interested in broadening their views and knowledge in disability studies.




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