Attitudes directed at people with disabilities by people without disabilities are formed through encounters with people with disabilities and are mediated by the characteristics of each person and what occurs during their interactions. Disability simulation activities are used to help positively affect people’s attitudes and levels of empathy. The purpose of this study was to examine 10 participants’ changes in attitudes toward people with disabilities that occurred as a result of participating in disability simulation activities held during an inclusive recreation services study abroad program. A three-phase mixed-methods research design that included the use of transformative procedures was used. The social model of disability served as the theoretical lens for this study. The quantitative component involved the administration of two scales pre- and post-test: The Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons (ATDP) scale and the Multidimensional Attitudes Scale Toward Persons with Disabilities (MAS) scale. Quantitative results indicated that participants’ experienced positive attitude changes in 12 of the 16 emotions as measured on the MAS and four emotions as measured on the ATDP. Statistical significance was not found for the other examined emotions. Qualitative data were collected using an in-depth thematic analysis of verbal and behavioral responses to participants’ responses to participation in extensive disability simulation activities. Qualitative results showed that the participants transitioned from a sympathetic response to an empathetic response, and then to an advocacy response. This transition demonstrated the potential for the emergence of a model specific to guiding participants through disability simulation activities. Suggestions for research and for facilitating effective disability simulation activities within or outside of recreational therapy practice are presented.
Author Alexis McKenney
Volume Vol. 52, No. 3 (2018)