Psychology professor edits special journal issue on disability and social justice in rehabilitation research

A special issue of the journal Rehabilitation Psychology edited by a Virginia Commonwealth University psychology professor explores disability and social justice in rehabilitation research.
Paul Perrin

Paul B. Perrin, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, director of VCU’s health psychology doctoral program and associate editor of the journal, a quarterly peer-reviewed publication that is dedicated to the advancement of the science and practice of rehabilitation psychology.

The special issue features 13 articles on diversity and social justice in disability research that focus on themes of critical disability identity theory, discrimination and prejudice, and health disparities in the context of disability.

“Some of the manuscripts incorporate new insights into how disparities in rehabilitation and psychological adjustment to disability occur in diverse populations, how stigma may play a role in that adjustment, and/or how individual, cultural or collective strengths of diverse populations facilitate maximal rehabilitation and psychological adjustment in the context of disability,” Perrin wrote in the issue’s introduction. “Many of the manuscripts have implications for how psychologists and allied health professionals can best fulfill their social justice, human rights and advocacy missions in order to advance access and inclusion for disabled people.”

The special issue offers several key takeaways, including:

  • that disability is an important aspect of identity for many people with disabilities;
  • that it is important that psychologists develop disability cultural competence skills in order to work competently with people with disabilities, particularly when the clinical focus is on disability identity;
  • and that just as it is critical for white psychologists who choose to focus on racial/ethnic minority populations to examine their own assumptions, biases and limitations, so too must nondisabled psychologists consider and have honest conversations with people with disabilities and psychologists with disabilities, as well as with each other, about the inherent biases and conditioning that they experience based on being nondisabled. 

Perrin also goes on to note that it is important not to equate race and ethnicity with disability or racism with ableism. Doing so, he writes, risks marginalizing the intersectionality of people of color with a disability and the multiple oppressions experienced.

“When racism and ableism operate simultaneously in the lives of disabled people of color, or also interact with other forms of oppression, very unique perspectives and experiences emerge, echoing the pithy maxim that the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts,” he wrote. “The centering of diverse voices reflecting intersecting identities in psychology is one of the most important future directions in psychology.”

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