Document Type (Journals)



Current revisions to the accreditation standards for occupational therapy (OT) education include proposed changes to experiential learning. The AOTA Fieldwork/Experiential Learning Ad Hoc Committee recommends that fieldwork Level I experiences be replaced with a new model of experiential education that includes the use of standardized patients and simulation (AOTA, 2017). The purpose of this article is to present critical perspectives about standardized patient simulation and disability simulation to support informed decision-making about the integration of experiential learning in OT professional education. In standardized patient simulation, actors play the roles of clients and important others in therapeutic scenarios; in disability simulation, students act out impairments in a variety of settings. While these forms of simulation are commonly used within OT education, they are critiqued for failing to present participants with authentic lived experiences of disability. This paper presents alternative approaches that would more fully align the OT curriculum with perspectives and priorities of intersectional disability communities. Recommendations to be considered by educators and educational programs include becoming familiar with relevant literature across fields and communities; developing long-term partnerships with disability organizations and community members; involving people with disabilities in the development, implementation, and evaluation of experiential learning opportunities; and providing experiential learning opportunities that take place outside educational and clinical settings and that attend to multiple intersecting dimensions of people with disabilities’ lived experiences. Together, these recommendations can help ensure that students have access to evidence-based educational approaches and best practices that accurately reflect the self-identified needs, concerns, and priorities of intersectional disability communities.


Laura VanPuymbrouck, OTR/L is a PhD Candidate in Disability Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her dissertation and primary research focus is on healthcare access and health equity of people with disability. She is active in research exploring occupational therapists’ understandings of disability influence and impact of clinical interventions. Jenna L. Heffron, PhD, OTR/L is an Assistant Professor in the Occupational Therapy Department at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. Her work exists at the intersection of occupational therapy and disability studies and her research and teaching interests include disability rights and culture, accessibility, and supporting practitioners with disabilities. Alisa Jordan Sheth, MS, OTR/L is a PhD candidate in Disability Studies and University Fellow at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research interests include understanding environmental impact on participation and resilience for older adults with intellectual disabilities and dementia, as well as participatory and inclusive research methodologies. Kimberly The, MS, OTR/L is a PhD student in Disability Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work focuses around OTs with disabilities, disability justice activism, intersectionality, and pathways to employment for disabled people. Danbi Lee, PhD, OTD, OTR/L is a post-doctoral fellow in Health Services and Outcomes Research at Northwestern University. She earned a PhD in Disability Studies and Doctor of Occupational Therapy from University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research focuses on evaluating self-management interventions and outcome measures for people with stroke.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declarations of interest.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.