Thanks to everyone who sent me comments and thoughts on the Connectivity writing project. Over the next few days I’ll post up some of the feedback and thoughts that these pieces. Remember to send comments on these things too and I’ll pull them all together.
This post came from Karen Atkinson – Senior lecturer and Manager of the Allied Health Professions Support Service (AHPSS) Resource Centre at the University of East London.I have worked with disabled physiotherapy students in higher education and in clinical practice for over 20 years. For part of my doctoral work I have researched the lived experiences of visually impaired physios as they transitioned from higher education into working in the NHS using an IPA approach. Now for my thesis I have interviewed a small group of practice based educators (PBEs) about their experiences of supporting disabled students on placement. I am writing up and am trying to really think about how physios engage with the ideas and realities of disability.
I have an abiding interest in the challenges that both disabled students and the staff members with whom they work, experience or perceive in the physiotherapy learning and teaching environments in which they interact. This interest has continued to evolve over the course of my Doctoral studies and the experiences of PBEs provides the key focus for this work. Interestingly Meekosha et al (2013) note that in early disability studies the social model of disability (with which many physiotherapists are familiar – in theory) emerged largely in order to contest the hegemony of medical and allied health professionals. In this piece of work I am trying to explore the ‘Ableist Project’ which attends to the problems of speaking, thinking and feeling about the Other (students referred to as ‘disabled’) and the ‘extraordinary’ Other, the ‘Abled’ (Campbell 2009 p3). Part of the aim is to proffer an invitation to physiotherapists and others to shift their gaze away from the focus on disability and to consider other more subtle ideas of epistemologies and ontologies of ableism. This may offer a different perspective from which to view the practices and production of disablism and “to examine attitudes and barriers that contribute to the subordination of disabled people in liberal society” (Campbell 2009 p4).
Even on initial analysis of my interviews I can see indications of non-disabled people (PBEs) seeing disabled people (disabled students) as the ‘other’. They tend to distance, objectify and relativise. If disabled people are unknowable how can we be certain that they are so ‘other’.
I am also interested in the issue that disabled physiotherapists generally (in my experience) are non politicised and their disability does not necessarily make up a key part of their identity, especially as physiotherapists. Passing and assimilation are common. Also they, as disabled professionals/students are embedded within a largely medical model of education and work within medicalised health and social care settings. I believe that this must inevitably cause dissonance.
An interesting point, I believe, is that a significant number of my participants perceive that because they are ‘good’ with disabled patients and very experienced at treating/managing these groups, ergo they are ‘good’ at managing disabled students . This troubles me.
I’m not sure if this helps with your project or will be of use – it feels very complex. I do believe that this type of conversation may help us to understand a little better why the presence of disabled students in the workplace engenders feelings of disempowerment and anxiety. References
Campbell F (2009) Contours of Ableism: the production of disability and abledness. Palgrave Macmillan.
Meekosha H, Shuttleworth R, Soldatic K (2013) Disability and Critical Sociology: Expanding the Boundaries of Critical Social Enquiry. Critical Sociology. 39 (3) 319 – 323.