Dixon, D. and Johnston, Marie (2008) Cognitive representations of disability behaviours in people with mobility limitations: consistency with theoretical constructs. Disability and Rehabilitation, 30 (2). pp. 126-133. ISSN 0963-8288
Disability is conceptualised as behaviour by psychological theory and as a result of bodily impairment by medical models. However, how people with disabilities conceptualise those disabilities is unclear. The purpose of this study was to examine disability representations in people with mobility disabilities. Thirteen people with mobility disabilities completed personal repertory grids (using the method of triads) applied to activities used to measure disabilities. Ten judges with expertise in health psychology then examined the correspondence between the elicited disability constructs and psychological and medical models of disability. Participants with mobility disabilities generated 73 personal constructs of disability. These constructs were judged consistent with the content of two psychological models, namely the theory of planned behaviour and social cognitive theory and with the main medical model of disability, the International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health. Individuals with activity limitations conceptualise activities in a manner that is compatible with both psychological and medical models. This ensures adequate communication in contexts where the medical model is relevant, e.g. clinical contexts, as well as in everyday conversation about activities and behaviours. Finally, integrated models of disability may be of value for theory driven interdisciplinary approaches to disability and rehabilitation.
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