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Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine physical therapy students’ learning about disability through an Exploring Perspectives on Disability (EPOD) learning event that was developed by School of Rehabilitative Science, McMaster University. EPOD consists of two scheduled classes discussing disability, a shadowing experience with an individual with a disability living in the community, and writing a reflective summary assignment about their learning. The EPOD was developed to broaden students’ perspectives regarding disability, promote a positive attitude about disability, and facilitate best practice approaches in community-based care. Method: Fifty-seven students in the first semester of a Master’s entry level physical therapy program completed the EPOD event. In the reflective summary, they were asked to describe and reflect on their experiences and observations about the individual they shadowed. The summaries were transcribed into NUD*IST, a computerized software program for qualitative data management. Each summary was read by two of four investigators who independently read, coded, and categorized the entries, and then worked together to identify themes. Results: Three major themes were identified: (1) students’ assumptions about disability were challenged; (2) their understanding about supports and barriers for people with disability was enhanced; and (3) they acknowledged the professional growth and learning that occurred. Conclusions: Through the EPOD learning event, students gained new knowledge about disability and their attitudes about people with disability were influenced. The EPOD was important in broadening their perspectives concerning disability and promoting a positive attitude about disability

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