Collaboration and adaptation: insights into experiences of persons with disabilities




Schulz, Celia

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This dissertation explored the concept of collaboration by persons with disabilities. Collaboration according to this research is defined as working together to achieve a common goal. Collaboration by persons with disabilities is an important concept as collaboration with others may be considered an alternative method for persons with disabilities to achieve independence in task performance. This line of research included three studies that contribute to the void in the literature on the topic of collaboration by persons with disabilities.

The first study was a literature review which explored and integrated concepts relevant to collaboration by persons with disabilities. The literature supported that collaboration with others can contribute to quality of life for persons with disabilities in a variety of ways.

The second study was a qualitative study conducted to determine the perspectives of persons with disabilities of the experiences with collaboration they have had with others in their lives. The participants clearly identified that collaboration was a necessary feature of their lives. Two forms of collaboration, supporting collaborations and symbiosis, best illustrated how task support through collaboration promotes participation and is a form of adaptation. Participants' descriptions of supporting collaborations and symbiosis were closely related to concepts of independence and interdependence as described in the Disability Studies literature. Participant's descriptions illuminated ways in which these two forms of collaboration enhance quality of life and self-actualization for people with disabilities.

The third study was a qualitative study of persons with disabilities conducted to examine the phenomenon of collaboration in the marriage relationship for persons with disabilities. The analyzed data fell into five large categories: (1) Practical Considerations; (2) Collaboration on Occupation; (3) Structures and Patterns of Collaboration; (4) Social Considerations; and (5) The Qualities that Make the Marriage Collaboration Special. Data indicated that participants collaborated with their spouses in a variety of ways and that there were qualities in their collaborations with their spouses which indicated a high level of mutual respect and love. Implications for occupational therapy are offered with an emphasis on how to facilitate collaboration by persons with disabilities.