Representations of Disability within Occupational Therapy Literature – A discourse analysis
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The aim of this thesis is to explore what understandings of disability are evident in the literature used at Bachelor programs in Occupational Therapy in Norway. A therapist’s understanding of disability can be assumed to affect how they work, consequently affecting disabled people as their clients. This, coupled with financial saving measures in the healthcare sector (such as utilising different professionals according to their expertise) makes it relevant to know what understanding of disability is present within a profession. Two research questions have been formulated to explore the understandings in the literature: How is disability represented in occupational therapy literature used at Bachelor programs in Occupational Therapy in Norway? and Which is the dominant discourse concerning disability conveyed through course literature at Bachelor programs in Occupational Therapy in Norway? This thesis is a literature study and the method used to explore the subject is Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis. Literature lists were collected from the five schools that offer Bachelor programs in occupational therapy in Norway. The most frequently used literature/chapters at all schools are included in the study. Two understandings of disability were found in the texts; a traditional OT (occupational therapy) understanding and an understanding based on ICF. Three discourses were found, the medical, relational and individual, which all explain different aspects of the understandings. Within the traditional OT understanding, disability is understood as a problem, defined by the individual, with performing an activity or participating. It is caused by or in the interaction between the activity, the environment and the person. Within the ICF understanding disability is understood as resulting from the relationship between a person’s possible impairment and their level of activity and participation. Disability is positively or negatively affected by the person’s health, the environment and personal factors. The traditional OT understanding is stronger within the analysed literature. The understandings cannot replace one another, and with support from other research, the conclusion is drawn that the understandings should complement and learn from each other while they continue to develop.