Broadening the Conceptualization of Participation of Persons With Physical Disabilities: A Configurative Review and Recommendations

Kathleen A. Martin Ginis, M. Blair Evans, W. Ben Mortenson, Luc Noreau

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Within the context of physical disability, participation has typically been conceptualized in terms of one's performance of different roles and activities. This perspective, however, ignores the meanings and satisfactions that a person derives from participating. Without an accepted conceptualization of participation that accounts for people's subjective perceptions and experiences, it is challenging for decision-makers and service providers to design meaningful participation-enhancing services, programs, and policies. Accordingly, our objectives were (1) to conduct a review of definitions and conceptualizations of participation that extend beyond performance and capture people's subjective experiences of participating and (2) to identify key experiential aspects of participation that can be used as a basis for conceptualizing and operationalizing the concept more broadly. The project involved a systematic, configurative review of relevant literature. Ten relevant articles were identified. Information on characteristics associated with experiential aspects of participation was extracted and subjected to a thematic analysis. The following 6 themes emerged: autonomy, belongingness, challenge, engagement, mastery, and meaning. Drawing on these findings, it is recommended that the individual's subjective perceptions of autonomy, belongingness, challenge, engagement, mastery, and meaning associated with participating be incorporated into conceptualizations and operationalizations of the participation construct. This recommendation provides a starting point for clinicians, researchers, and policymakers to conceptualize and measure the participation concept more consistently and more broadly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-402
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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