16-1 What is "Disability Studies" (DS) and what does it have to do with physiotherapy?

What is "Disability Studies" (DS)
and what does it have to do with physiotherapy? Hani Vitelson 



Disability Studies (DS) is a growing field of public and academic activities, which are  relevant to physiotherapy. I first encountered the field of DS when I participated in a research group operating under the auspices of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. The current review aims to present DS to my physiotherapy colleagues.

The course of development of DS followed the tradition, and adopted the terminology of the earlier 20th century civil-rights movement, which advocated for equal rights for women and African Americans. DS focuses on the analysis of issues related to the balance of power in society: overt and covert motives, differential allocation of resources, and power-based relations between various groups. As a political approach, DS aims to alter the concept of disability and the way in which people with disabilities are perceived. In DS thinking, medicine in general and rehabilitation in particular are considered restrictive forces, because they support a "politics of normality".

In physiotherapy, the appropriate arena for generating change is the human body; in DS, the appropriate arena is society. For DS, making the physical and social environments accessible to people with disabilities is considered more effective than rehabilitation that aims to restore an individual's walking ability. The ICF classification, with its emphasis on bio-psycho-social interactions, provides a common language and an opportunity for cross-fertilization between DS and physiotherapy. Increased familiarity with DS thinking can improve our clinical performance and broaden our professional world.

Key Words: Disability Studies, Physiotherapy, Education, Policy

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