Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


The recent innumerable social and racial injustices and healthcare disparities experienced globally have catapulted diversity and inclusion discussions to the forefront. The purpose of this study was to identify the supports and barriers to inclusion in occupational therapy (OT) education from the experiences of OT students from historically marginalized groups and the perspectives of OT faculty/staff. The authors used a convergent mixed methods design for the study, which consisted of an online survey and semi-structured interviews. 131 students and 35 faculty/staff completed the survey, while 20 students and 11 faculty completed interviews. Five themes emerged from the data: 1) Barriers and facilitators exist while exploring OT as a potential career; 2) There are pros and cons to the OT admissions process for students from historically marginalized groups; 3) Students from historically marginalized groups experience varying degrees of exclusion and a limited sense of belonging within their OT programs; 4) Many OT programs have good intentions to promote diversity and inclusion through various efforts; and 5) Some OT program efforts may be counterproductive, and more actions must be taken to further promote inclusion and address barriers to inclusion. Numerous supports and barriers to inclusion in OT education were identified within these themes. Findings indicate that despite numerous inclusion efforts, students from historically marginalized groups continue to experience several barriers that impact inclusion in OT education. Based on these findings, the authors provide strategies to promote and advocate for inclusion in OT education.


Arielle Ramirez, OTD, OTR/L is a 2020 graduate of Midwestern University’s Doctoral Occupational Therapy Program. She currently works at Chicago Public Schools as an occupational therapy practitioner and Tiered Occupational Therapy Scholar. Her research interests include occupational justice and inclusion for underserved communities, and school based occupational therapy practice and intervention for historically marginalized groups.

Anne Kiraly-Alvarez, OTD, OTR/L, SCSS is Associate Professor and Director of Capstone Development in the Occupational Therapy Program at Midwestern University in Downers Grove, IL. Her research interests include doctoral capstones, life skills interventions for adolescents & young adults with intellectual and developmental disability, and exploring cultural influences on occupation.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declaration of interest.

Creative Commons License

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.