Research Article
Issue Date: July/August 2003
Published Online: July 01, 2003
Updated: April 30, 2020
Clara: A Phenomenology of Disability
Author Affiliations
  • René Padilla, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA, is Assistant Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy, School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, Creighton University, 2500 California Plaza, Omaha, Nebraska 68178;
Article Information
Rehabilitation, Participation, and Disability / The Experience of Disability and Occupation
Research Article   |   July 01, 2003
Clara: A Phenomenology of Disability
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July/August 2003, Vol. 57, 413-423.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July/August 2003, Vol. 57, 413-423.
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A phenomenological approach was used to describe the lived experience of disability of a woman who sustained a head injury 21 years ago. Data were collected through 11 face-to-face interviews and 72 e-mail messages over the period of 11 weeks. An iterative, fluid process of questioning, information-giving, analysis, and verification was characteristic of the whole study, alternating between analysis of the particular and analysis of the general. Through a process of phenomenological reduction, each interview transcript and e-mail message was divided into meaning units that denoted shifts of meaning. Similar meaning units within a transcript or message were then grouped and summarized in a phrase or word. As new meaning units emerged, additional interviews and e-mail exchanges took place in order to obtain an exhaustive description of the experience of disability. All meaning units obtained from this iterative process finally were “horizonalized” into meaning clusters of nonrepetitive themes. The themes of nostalgia, abandonment, and hope emerged through this collaborative process. A shift in view of life was noted in the participant as the reflective process of this study unfolded, suggesting a phenomenological collaboration between patient and therapist may engender a more genuine connection in which personal meaning is authentically the cornerstone of occupation-centered treatment.