Accommodations for Students With Disabilities in Physical Therapist and Physical Therapist Assistant Education Programs: A Pilot Study

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The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was established to remove barriers that deny individuals with disabilities equal opportunities, including the opportunity for a qualified individual with a disability to receive professional training. The purpose of this study was to begin to describe the educational experience of physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) with disabilities. Twenty-one individuals (18 PTs and 3 PTAs) who completed their PT or PTA education program with a disability were included in this pilot study. Of these 21 people, 19 (91%) reported that the onset of their disability occurred prior to admission, and 2 (9%) stated that onset occurred during their enrollment in the program. A questionnaire was prepared for the study and mailed to the participants. Descriptive statistics and frequency tables were generated from the data. Respondent comments were recorded. Nineteen disability diagnoses were reported. Thirteen respondents (62%) reported that they required some accommodation for their disability during their professional schooling. Seven (54%) of those 13 individuals stated that accommodations were always or frequently made for them during the academic portion of their work. Fourteen individuals (67%) reported requiring accommodations for the clinical portion of their studies. Nine (64%) of those individuals reported that accommodations were always or frequently made at the clinical site. This study demonstrated that it was possible for students with disabilities in PT or PTA programs to successfully complete training. The ADA provides strong influence for the provision of accommodations for PT and PTA students with disabilities.

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