Critical reflections on occupational justice: Toward a rights-based approach to occupational opportunities

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Abstract

Background.

Occupational justice is cited throughout the occupational science and occupational therapy literatures despite little scholarly attention either to its definition or to how situations of occupational justice are identifiable.

Purpose.

This paper aims to contribute a critique of occupational justice, explore the concepts of justice and (occupational) rights, and support a capabilities approach to inform rights-based occupational therapy practices.

Key Issues.

No clear definition of occupational justice or differentiation from social justice exists despite the longevity of the concept, and theorists frequently confuse the concepts of justice and rights. A rights-based focus provides an unambiguous mandate for occupational therapists, with the capabilities approach offering a cross-disciplinary framework to inform rights-based practices.

Implications.

The concept of occupational rights is consistent with the rights-based focus advocated by the disabled people’s movement, articulated by the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, and affirmed by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists’ position on the centrality of occupation to health, well-being, and human rights.

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