All over the world, persons with disabilities- physical, intellectual, psychological, and others- face disproportionate rates of violence compared to the general population. Persons with disabilities can experience the same types of abuse as non-disabled people; however, they can also experience abuse related specifically to their disability. Reducing and mitigating the effects of violence against persons with disabilities are tasks not just for justice and social services, but for the health sector too. To date occupational therapy has played a limited role in this discourse. Violence is broadly defined as all forms of physical or mental violence; injury and abuse; neglect or negligent treatment; and maltreatment or exploitation, including bullying and sexual abuse. Occupational therapists must not only be aware of the heightened possibility that their clients will have experienced violence and are at increased risk for experiencing violence in the future, but also be comfortable with discussing and addressing violence-related issues in a culturally competent manner.
Dr. Janet Njelesani, faculty affiliate at IHDSC, conducts research focused on equity for youth and women with disabilities living in low and middle-income countries. Funded by the Provost’s Global Research Initiative, she will be launching the first Global Disability-Based Violence Research Group for the field of occupational therapy. The first workshop will be held in Cape Town, South Africa on May 23, 2018 in conjunction with the World Federation of Occupational Therapists Congress. Discussions will include defining the field of occupational therapy’s present and future roles in addressing violence across the lifespan and in various practice settings.
Visit the WFOT Congress site for more information.