Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Dr. Debbie Laliberte Rudman


This thesis aims to deepen understandings of how various aspects of the environment shape how older adults with age-related vision loss (ARVL) negotiate and engage in occupation. The thesis further raises critical awareness of the ways in which environmental features, embedded in ageist and ableist assumptions, shape and perpetuate experiences of disability for older adults with ARVL. A critical ethnography was undertaken, informed by theoretical concepts drawn from critical gerontology, environmental gerontology, a critical occupational perspective, and critical disability theory. A total of ten older adults with ARVL participated in three data generation sessions consisting of a narrative interview, semi-structured in-depth interview, and participant observation session. Seven community organization representatives participated in a semi-structured in-depth interview and sixteen relevant documents were critically reviewed.

This work is comprised of five integrated manuscripts, in addition to the introduction, methodology, and discussion chapters. Chapter two presents a scoping review that explores pre-existing research addressing factors, including demographic, emotional, behavioral, diagnostic, and environmental, which influence the occupational engagement of older adults with ARVL. Chapter four provides a rationale for expanding the application of a critical sensibility to existing conceptualizations of the environment in an effort to expand the field of environmental gerontology beyond a micro-and meso-level approach towards a holistic view of the environment. Chapter five explores how a critical disability theory approach could lead to new research foci in the study of ARVL. Key findings of the critical ethnography are presented in chapters six and seven. Chapter six focuses on exploring those attributes that older adults with ARVL perceive as being the markers of a 'good old age' and how their negotiations of everyday occupation occur in relation to these markers. Chapter seven aims to highlight how experiences of disability for the informants are shaped through interactions with environmental features, thereby highlighting the socio-political production of disability.

This work points to novel empirical, methodological, and theoretical insights relevant to the ARVL field. This work also has implications for persons with vision loss, vision rehabilitation professionals, and researchers as well as for the development of vision-friendly environments and inclusive social policy.