Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Rudman, Debbie L.


Occupational science is striving to become a transformative and international science that seeks to address occupational injustices locally and globally. Moving forward in these directions involves expanding beyond Western perspectives on occupation and utilizing critically-informed participatory methodologies. The intent of this dissertation was to enact an occupation-based transformative agenda through a critically-informed participatory action research (PAR) project with children with disabilities from rural South India.

This dissertation is comprised of five integrated manuscripts, as well as introduction and discussion chapters. The first manuscript critically explores the application of the occupational justice framework in research and highlights dominant tendencies, absences, and recommendations for research addressing occupational justice. The second manuscript describes and considers the utility of three participatory digital methodologies (digital storytelling, participatory video/filmmaking, and participatory geographic information systems) for transformative occupation-based research with children and youth. The third manuscript describes the PAR process used with children with disabilities, which employed participatory filmmaking as a research methodology, highlighting different project phases, activities carried out, challenges faced, and strategies used. The fourth manuscript highlights the role of critical reflexivity in addressing ethical tensions in the field by presenting transparent accounts of reflexive notes from facilitators as well as child co-researchers. The fifth manuscript presents the findings from the PAR through participatory and theoretical analyses informed by critical occupational science and critical disability perspectives. The participatory thematic analysis, which was completed in collaboration with children with disabilities, explicates issues of occupational injustices, ways injustices are shaped by context, and how occupations impact context. The theoretical analysis of information gathered with children with disabilities as well as parents, teachers, and service providers, further explicates the situatedness of the injustices expressed by children. This manuscript also highlights types of transformation addressed and occurring through this work.

Overall, this dissertation explicates nuanced understandings on occupation, occupational justice, and disability, through perspectives from the Global South. It contributes to methodological and theoretical developments within critical occupational science scholarship, as well as highlights implications for educational policy development addressing issues of inclusion and occupational justice within a rural Indian context.

Summary for Lay Audience

This dissertation is located within occupational science, a discipline focused on the study of occupation, a term that encompasses the range of everyday activities that individuals and social groups want and need to do. Researchers in occupational science have encouraged projects that address the everyday occupational injustices that individuals and communities face. Specifically, the intent of this project was to work towards addressing the occupational injustices experienced by children with disabilities from a rural village in Southern India by working with them as co-researchers. A participatory action research (PAR) approach was used to work towards equitable collaboration with children with disabilities in all aspects of the research, and in addressing social change. Participatory filmmaking was used as a research methodology. As co-researchers, the children created a group film focused on issues impacting their participation in occupations and social issues in their community they deemed as requiring change. This filmmaking process helped child co-researchers identify issues of injustices, explore what contributed to such injustices, and mobilize change through proposing potential solutions.

This dissertation has five manuscripts, and introduction and conclusion chapters. The first two manuscripts build the foundation for the PAR by exploring the usefulness and application of a theoretical framework and research methodologies relevant for this work. The third and fourth manuscripts describe the participatory filmmaking process used with children with disabilities by highlighting the different project phases, activities carried out in each phase, challenges faced, and strategies used. The last manuscript presents the results from this PAR through an analysis carried out with child co-researchers, as well as another layer of analysis using theory as an analytical lens with additional perspectives from parents, service providers, and community members. The results highlight the injustices that children with disabilities faced in terms of their exclusion from occupations, as well as community concerns related to violence, substance abuse, and environmental degradation. The results increase understanding of how these injustices and concerns were shaped by environmental factors, like economic, cultural, and socio-political systems. This manuscript also highlights how social change has and is being addressed through this work.