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What is Occupational Therapy? –  It’s time to stop thinking it’s hard to explain. 

Acknowledgment – This blog post is a personal opinion piece, writing is an occupation that helps me make sense of my thoughts and ideas. I acknowledge these may not be shared others, and respect peoples rights to have, different even conflicting ideas.  This website has an accessible feature, that allows different accessible formats by simply clicking on a button labelled ‘Accessibility Menu’ that appears in green on all pages. It will provide you with a number of options to change the appearance to meet your accessibility needs.  This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

Since a young age, I have been familiar with the term “occupational therapy” due to it being my mother’s career, before mine.  I am uncertain about the exact moment when I fully comprehended its concept, but always try to ensure I take the time to explained to anyone who asks because throughout my professional journey, I have consistently encountered remarks expressing a lack of understanding about occupational therapy and the challenge of explaining its purpose to others.  However if you just take a few minutes to think about it it’s not a difficult concept to grasp. 

During a previous position, I took on the responsibility of leading two teams of occupational therapy staff with the goal of bringing them together as a unified unit. In order to foster cohesion and promote understanding, I organised an exercise for the entire staff. I paired individuals who were not previously acquainted and asked them to discuss how they would articulate the essence of occupational therapy. It is important to note that these staff members worked in a secure mental health setting.

In these conversations, I encountered a range of responses such as assisting individuals in achieving independence and facilitating problem-solving to regain independence. I was somewhat surprised by the difficulty in clearly explaining our profession, and also by the fact that staff in a secure mental health setting viewed independence as a desired outcome.
Thanks to a previous campaign by Alice Hortop @LaughingOT, the Royal College of Occupational Therapists made the decision to remove the term “independence” from their official definition a few years ago.

Independence’, or self-reliance and freedom from external control, influence, support, aid, or similar dependencies, is an elusive concept to fully achieve. Can anyone really claim to be entirely independent? Personally, I readily acknowledge that I rely on others in various aspects of my life, whether it be emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Therefore, the idea that a specific profession can grant complete independence appears to be somewhat unrealistic.

During the same session with the staff from the secure service, I facilitated a further exercise, I asked them to share their weekend activities and reflect on any challenges they faced, as well as how they overcame those challenges.

I recall one individual sharing their experience of painting a room in their home and facing difficulty in reaching certain parts of the wall. They explained that they sought assistance by asking someone to hold a ladder for them.

Currently, as I am writing this blog I’m staying in an Airbnb in Edinburgh with my brother and niece, as we have tickets for the fringe festival. Lyra, my niece, is playfully trying to provoke me, by attempting to open the blinds but being unable to reach the cord. She looked around the room and noticed some books, contemplating if standing on them would help her reach the cord.

Now, back to delving deeper into the concepts of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Therapists. It can be confusing because the therapy and the profession share the same name, causing us to overlook the fact that occupational therapy is a therapy in its own right.

The terms “Occupation” and “Occupational” have multiple meanings. While our initial thought may revolve around a job or career, if we consider the word “occupy,” we are more likely to associate it with a hostile takeover or how we spend our time.

In this context, when we focus on how we use our time, occupations encompass everything we do, from getting out of bed to how we spend our leisure time. They include both things we need and want to do, as well as tasks we may not particularly desire to do, but are required of us.

The term “therapy” refers to the process of providing treatment to individuals with mental or physical ailments, without the use of medications or surgical procedures.
Therapy involves a tailored course of treatment designed to address the unique needs of individuals facing a specific illness. It serves as a means of helping individuals experience an improved sense of well-being, physical development, and overall recovery, particularly following an illness.

Occupational Therapy is a therapeutic approach that focuses on facilitating engagement in occupations that have personal significance.

Individuals who encounter challenges in carrying out their desired or necessary occupations may benefit from Occupational Therapy. These challenges could stem from pain, low mood, lack of motivation, fatigue, illness, or other life-altering events that hinder their ability to participate in occupations.

While some individuals possess the inherent ability to problem-solve and find solutions to overcome these challenges, such as making environmental adjustments or seeking assistance, like my niece naturally did when wanting to open the blinds,  although the main motivation for the occupation was to disturb me,  or more likely she was saying put the laptop down and play with me.  

Others, particularly when unwell, may require support in order to engage in some occupations fully. This support may take the form of modifying the environment, such as installing a ramp, or developing strategies to better manage time and energy. For instance, an Occupational Therapist may provide tasks of varying duration or complexity to enhance concentration and develop skills.

An Occupational Therapist might conducts an assessment to determine an individual’s current abilities and baseline in performing occupations. Based on this assessment, they collaborate with the individual to establish goals aimed at enhancing or adapting their engagement in occupations to align with their personal satisfaction and well-being.
What is of utmost importance is determining the factors that motivate individuals to participate. This may encompass the nature of the occupation, the benefits derive from it, and the personal significance it holds.

Personally, I acknowledge the necessity of increasing my level of physical occupations. However the thought of utilising a traditional gym setting fails to generate any motivation within me.  However, what compels me is the opportunity to engage socially with others while participating in occupations that involve physical exertion, such as swimming in rivers. By finding an occupation that incorporates a social element and facilitates exercise, I am able to ignite genuine motivation. The occupation I am involved in holds a personal significance to me, as it not only enhances my physical abilities but also caters to my social needs.

So this is my call to you all to think about how you might, describe occupational therapy to others, take some time to think of some examples to share, write your thoughts down in a blog post like this.


The World Federation of Occupational Therapy describes  Occupational therapy as a client-centred health profession concerned with promoting health and wellbeing through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement (WFOT, 2012)

In occupational therapy, occupations refer to the everyday activities that people do as individuals, in families and with communities to occupy time and bring meaning and purpose to life. Occupations include things people need too, want to and are expected to do.

Blog Post

17th July 2023 –  @AbleOTUK #DisabilityPrideMonthBlogs – What could the lived experience bring to the occupational therapy profession? – #BeAnAbleOTUKAlly

This is repost from a blog I wrote for AbleOTUK its the third blog posted by us during Disability Pride Month – please also see others here

Acknowledgement – This is a personal experiences piece of writing, throughout this blog I will use the term disabled/disability by this I mean any condition that has a physical, emotional, psychological or learning impact on how a person might engage in occupations,  I acknowledge that not all people with health conditions and mental health will identify with the word ‘disabled,’  but this is my preferred term for my conditions and I fully respect others who choose to use different terminology.   

I’m proud of who I am and what my lived experiences of lifelong disabilities have brought to my life, and to my delivery of occupational therapy. 

The subject of this blog is to address what those of us with lived experiences might bring to the profession, both as registered occupational therapists, and those who have been in receipt of occupational therapy.    

Firstly what do we mean by lived experience(s),  it’s a term that has been around for a while, some might think it’s the latest buzzword, in fact it’s fast becoming a sought after set of skills that are being actively employed within services designed to provide health and social care.  In job roles like Recovery Workers, Community Engagement Coordinators, Volunteers, Peer Support workers, where it is being seen that those that have experiences of disabilities have a key role to play.  

I have experience of working alongside many of these roles and they add much value, and are needed but I can’t help feeling uncomfortable that we have unintentionally created a distinction between those with lived experience and those with professionally recognised qualifications, like occupational therapists.  Does this add to the undercurrent of ableism that is experienced by those with lived experiences from health and social care professions?  I’m not sure it does but perhaps there is a potential for an us and them culture to develop? 

 Lived experiences of disability could include:

  • Knowledge gained through direct, first-hand involvement in everyday events, rather than through assumptions and constructs from other people, research, or media.
  • First-hand experience of living with a disability, including real life encounters and challenges faced by individuals with disabilities 
  • Personal perspectives on the impact of disability on daily life including insights into the physical, emotional, and social aspects of disability, 
  • Understanding gained from navigating a world not designed with disability in mind
  • Unique knowledge and expertise developed through personal experiences with disability
  • The intersection of disability and identity, including self-perception and societal perceptions
  • Examples of overcoming difficulties and achieving personal goals in spite of disability
  • Contributions to disability advocacy, awareness, and inclusivity efforts
  • The potential for growth, resilience, and empowerment fostered through the experience of disability.

There is an argument that these are ideal skills for occupational therapists,  but how commonly does the profession co-create its models, assessment tools and frames of references on an equal footing with those who have lived experiences,  rather than just using them in parts of the development like research subjects, or asking for feedback.  

When we define occupational therapy we think of it as client centred,  but can we truly say it is client centred if we are not embracing the lived experiences voice in the profession moving forward?  Surely in the history of occupational therapy we must have had some, with lived experiences that shaped the profession?  

One of the reasons AbleOTUK was founded was because those within the profession with lived experiences had experienced, discrimination for others in the profession, being questioned about if they have the ability to practise, this is a common experience of those that attend our monthly support groups.  There is a stigma attached to disclosure, and reports that people with lived experiences are referred to occupational health or taken down capability, more often than those who do not have lived experiences.  

Anecdotally those that attend our support groups report difficulties with their colleagues and organisations making reasonable adjustments.  I have personal experiences of reasonable adjustments being agreed, but not put in place,  being questioned that my reasonable adjustments are not fair on others, and experiences of reasonable adjustments I have asked for at an interview not being given as it is considered unfair to others.  

What we know is that equity of opportunities within employment means that all employees have equal access to opportunities for employment, advancement, and development regardless of gender, race, disability or other factors,  but this is not the experience of those within the profession. 

Representation matters, and like most other health and social care professions they have a history of being developed by those that had the privilege to access the education needed to succeed, social economics have given some under represented groups access to education and the profession is more diverse than ever, with the core values of occupational therapy being universally understood,  but how it is practised is often depended on many factors including how health and social care services are delivered around the world.     

 For example occupational therapy is well established within mental health settings in the UK,  but in other developed countries it has little representation.  There are many models of occupational therapy that have been developed around the world. A country’s cultural makeup will have played a role in how these models were developed,  with many comparing a person’s occupational performance abilities to standards that society finds acceptable or normal. 

A lot of the time,  I work with people that have not had opportunities or privileges to develop skills in occupations that society sees as normal, and they get trapped in a constant circle of assessments, criteria, and judgments made by people in positions of power. Is this client centred?  

Our standardised assessment have nero-typical expectations, an acknowledgement of this needs to be taken on by the profession,  with a willingness to listen to the lived experiences voice,  being prepared to hear where and when our assessments and interventions have not felt helpful, and learn to recognise the expertise that can be brought to the table by those with lived experience,  not as a thing to inspire us but as ways to actively co create interventions, modules and approaches in the future.  

This Disability Pride Month #BeAnAbleOTUKAlly and take some time to consider where the lived experience voice is in your clinical practice, and if you can’t hear it,  be curious to find it.     

Blog Post

Disability Pride Month – People Occupational Therapist should know and admire.  #DisabilityPrideMonth


July is Disability Pride month – aim’s to shine a light on physical, learning, hidden disabilities and mental health conditions, by enabling open conversations about disability, encouraging people to share experiences, raising awareness and challenging barriers whilst celebrating the diversity, a pride with the community.

Throughout the month I will aim to share stories about people occupational therapists should know and admire. These people will have lived experiences of disabilities and/or long term health conditions, but they will also be examples of how people can live the life they want to and engage in the occupations that matter to them. I hope you will enjoy learning about some of these people who were or are notable in their field, and just so happened to also have a disability and or long term health condition.

31st  July –  Stephen William Hawking 

No list of disable people to know and admire would be complete without the inclusion of Stephen Hawking  (January 8, 1942 – March 14, 2018)  a distinguished English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author. At the time of his passing, he served as the Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge. From 1979 to 2009, he held the esteemed position of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, widely regarded as one of the most prestigious academic roles worldwide.

Hawking was born in Oxford to a family of medical professionals. In October 1959, he embarked on his university education at University College, Oxford, where he graduated with a first-class BA degree in Physics. He then pursued his graduate studies at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge, beginning in October 1962. In March 1966, he obtained his PhD degree in Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, specialising in general relativity and cosmology.

At the age of 21, Hawking was diagnosed with an early-onset, slowly progressing form of motor neurone disease, which gradually paralysed him over the course of several decades. Despite the loss of his speech, he communicated through a speech-generating device, initially using a handheld switch and later a single cheek muscle.

His scientific contributions included collaborative research with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems within the framework of general relativity, as well as the groundbreaking prediction that black holes emit radiation, known as Hawking radiation. Initially met with controversy, this discovery gained widespread acceptance as a significant advancement in theoretical physics following further research in the late 1970s. Hawking was the first to propose a theory of cosmology that reconciled the general theory of relativity with quantum mechanics. He staunchly supported the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Hawking also achieved commercial success with his popular science writings, presenting his theories and cosmology to a wider audience. His book “A Brief History of Time” remained on the Sunday Times bestseller list for an unprecedented 237 weeks. He was honoured as a Fellow of the Royal Society, a lifelong member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. In 2002, he was ranked number 25 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. Hawking passed away in 2018 at the age of 76, after battling motor neurone disease for more than five decades.

30th July Amy Francis-Smith 

A highly-acclaimed architect, designer, and access consultant. She currently serves as the project lead at Pinnegar Hayward Design and has fulfilled the role of Vice-President at the Birmingham Architectural Association. Amy is dedicated to advocating for legislative changes that promote improved accessibility for individuals with disabilities in the built environment. 

As a recognised specialist in accessible environments by the Design Council, Amy provides expert advice on accessibility, policy, design, and top-level strategy. She brings a wealth of experience in design and construction, with a particular focus on residential schemes and large-scale healthcare projects. Additionally, Amy offers her expertise in access consultancy for buildings and new product development.

Amy is a passionate advocate for better access policies surrounding accessible housing and the Building Regulations. She enlightens students and professionals through engaging talks and lectures that emphasize social responsibility. Amy also actively contributes to the advisory board of Habinteg, an accessible housing association. Furthermore, she tirelessly lobbies the government and proudly serves as an ambassador for the Architect’s Benevolent Society.

Amy’s work extends beyond the architectural field, as she has collaborated with esteemed organisations such as the Financial Times, BBC, British Council, Coventry City of Culture, City A.M., Wallpaper*, and the Architects Journal. Her contributions have earned her repeated recognition on the Power 100 list. She has been shortlisted among thousands as a National Diversity Award Positive Disability Role Model. 

Amy draws her personal experiences with severe chronic illnesses and disabilities, including Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Crohn’s, a hearing impairment, and Complex post-traumatic stress disorder CPSTD.

29th July Eliza Suggs

Elizabeth Gertrude Suggs was an American author of the 19th century, who had osteogenesis imperfecta. She is best known for her work as a temperance lecturer. The biographical information available about Eliza Suggs can be found in her book, Shadow and Sunshine, which was published in 1906.
Suggs was born in Bureau County, Illinois, she was the youngest of four daughters to James and Malinda (Filbrick) Suggs. Both of her parents were born into slavery, When Eliza was only four weeks old, her parents noticed that she cried continuously and discovered that she had a broken limb. After that injury healed, she experienced more fractures, even with minimal movement. Her condition often meant dying in childhood,  but Eliza defied the odds and lived into her early thirties.
Eliza faced significant mobility challenges and was unable to sit up without assistance. Initially, doctors struggled to identify the cause of Eliza’s condition. However, as she grew older and medical advancements occurred, she received a diagnosis of what was then known as Rickets, but is now referred to as Osteogenesis Imperfecta.
She actively participated in the Temperance movement as a committed member of the Free Methodist denomination. Prior to her father’s passing in 1889, Eliza played a supporting role alongside him in his efforts for Temperance. After he past, she embarked on her own journey. Eliza, together with her sister Kate, would attend diverse events such as Temperance conferences, camp meetings, and religious services, where she would share her personal experiences, trials, and her unwavering faith in Jesus Christ and its sustaining effect on her life.

28th July Rosie Jones 

A comedian, author, podcaster, actress and activist with cerebral palsy, who in her own words is a triple threat.   Rosie has superb comic timing with the ability to make you belly laugh and then make a serious point about every day ablism that really makes you stop and think. I first wrote about her in a blog after seeing her live at the fringe in 2019 you can read it here

Most recently Rosie has used her platform to challenge ablism head on in a channel 4 documentary,  this documentary was not welcomed by all in the disability community causing controversy.  This is something the AbleOTUK team will be exploring in their next article in OT magazine.  

Personally in my opinion Rosie can do no wrong, she uses her talents and platform to continue to challenge every day ablism and will always be an example to follow.  

27th July Octavia Spencer:

Oscar-winning actress, has captivated audiences worldwide with her outstanding performances, particularly in the movie “Hidden Figures,” where she brought to light the untold stories of the remarkable women behind NASA’s success.

Spencer is open about her dyslexia, what it was like to  faced challenges as a young girl having difficulty in reading aloud, initially causing her to feel overwhelmed and paralysed. Acknowledging that it continues to affect her, as an adult and author of two books. “I was a dyslexic child and am a dyslexic adult; that doesn’t really mean that you’re not intelligent — it just means that your brain functions differently,” Spencer said. “I was actually tested for the gifted program in my school because I was more auditory inclined than visually.”

26th July Mary Temple Grandin

An academic and animal behaviourist from the United States. She is highly regarded for her advocacy of humane treatment for livestock intended for slaughter, as well as her comprehensive research in animal behaviour, with over 60 scientific papers published. Grandin also serves as a consultant to the livestock industry, offering valuable advice on animal behaviour. In addition to her contributions in the field of animal sciences, Grandin is a spokesperson for autism.

She holds a faculty position in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University, specialising in Animal Sciences. Grandin’s remarkable achievements have been recognised on a global scale, as she was included in the “Heroes” category of the Time 100 list in 2010. 

Her life story has been portrayed in the award-winning biographical film Temple Grandin. Known for her unwavering support for autism rights and the neurodiversity movement, Grandin continues to be an influential figure in her field.

25th July Isabella Spingmuhl Tejada, 

A fashion designer who is notably recognised as the first fashion designer with Down Syndrome. Operating under her label, Down to Xjabelle, she crafts sustainable designs by employing vibrant Guatemalan fabrics. 

Through her work, she endeavours to challenge prevalent stereotypes and social discrimination that she has encountered due to her condition. In 2016, her exceptional creations graced the International Fashion Showcase segment of London Fashion Week, showcasing her talent on a global platform. Furthermore, she was acknowledged as one of the BBC 100 Women, solidifying her mark in the fashion industry.

As for her background, Springmuhl is the youngest among her siblings. Her maternal grandmother, herself a gifted designer, served as an inspiration for Isabella early on, as she exhibited her own talent in drawing and dressmaking for her dolls as a young girl. Despite facing initial rejection due to her Down syndrome, she persisted in her pursuit of a fashion education. Ultimately, her determination led her to gain admission to a fashion school where she could further refine her skills.

24th July – Aaron Rose Philip

Born 2001, and is an Antiguan-American model. Notably, in 2018, Aaron made history by becoming the first black, transgender, and physically disabled model to be represented by a major modelling agency. Since then, Aaron has participated in numerous significant high fashion photo shoots and campaigns.

At age of 14 , she published her memoir titled “This Kid Can Fly: It’s About Ability (Not Disability),” which chronicles her personal experiences growing up with cerebral palsy. Collaborating with Tanya Bolden, Aaron co-wrote the memoir, and it was published by HarperCollins.

She has graced the cover of Paper magazine’s “Pride” issue, and in a notable interview, she engaged with supermodel Naomi Campbell. Additionally, Aaron appeared on the cover of S moda for El Pais’ September issue and INDIE’s Spring/Summer 21 cover. Her portfolio includes editorials shot for distinguished publications like American Vogue, British Vogue, and Vogue Italia. Aaron has also been featured in campaigns for renowned brands such as Dove, Sephora, Outdoor Voices, and Nike. Notably, she starred in the music video for Miley Cyrus’ song “Mother’s Daughter,”

Aaron exclusively debuted in Moschino’s spring/summer 2022 runway show at New York Fashion Week, becoming the first wheelchair-user model to walk in a runway show for a major luxury fashion brand.

23rd July Naoki Higashida,

Born in Kimitsu, Japan in the year 1992. Following a diagnosis of autism at five, Naoki subsequently acquired the ability to communicate through the utilisation of a self-made alphabet grid. 

This newfound means of communication afforded him the opportunity to engross himself in the creation of poetry and short stories. In his thirteenth year of existence, Naoki penned the notable work titled “The Reason I Jump”, which was subsequently published in Japan during the year 2007. 

The English translation of this literary piece was made available to the public in the year 2013, and it has since been translated into over thirty languages. In addition to this seminal work, Higashida has authored numerous books in Japan, spanning various genres such as children’s literature, picture books, poetry, and essays. 

He was also prominently featured as the focal point of a distinguished Japanese television documentary produced in the year 2014. Demonstrating steadfast dedication to his cause, Higashida maintains a rigorous schedule of public speaking engagements nationwide, wherein he shares his invaluable personal insights into the realm of autism. 24th July Stephen Hawking,

22nd July Wanda Diaz Merced,

A blind astronomer, is known for sonifying large data sets. She works at the European Gravitational Observatory Cascina and advocates for equality in astronomy. She was recognised by the BBC as one of the 7 most trailblazing women in science. Díaz-Merced pursues a career in science, losing her sight in her twenties she found new ways to study stellar radiation using sound. She studied physics at the University of Puerto Rico and earned a doctorate in computer science from the University of Glasgow. She has collaborated with various institutions and is a member of the International Astronomical Union. Díaz-Merced won Google’s European Scholarship for Students with Disabilities in 2011 and was awarded an Estrella Luike trophy in 2017.

21st July Stella Young,

Stella Jane Young (24 February 1982 – 6 December 2014) was an Australian comedian, journalist, and disability rights activist. Born with osteogenesis imperfecta, she audited accessibility in her hometown at the age of 14.

Young held a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Public Relations and a Graduate Diploma in Education. She worked as the editor for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Ramp Up magazine and hosted the disability culture program No Limits. Young challenged society’s habit of using disabled people as “inspiration porn” and was recognized for her work as a journalist, comedian, feminist, and disability activist.

A bronze statue of Young in her wheelchair was unveiled in her hometown of Stawell in 2023.

20th July Ade Adepitan, 

Adedoyin Olayiwola Adepitan, known as Ade Adepitan MBE, is a Nigerian-born British TV presenter and wheelchair basketball player. He has a career spanning over 20 years, hosting travel documentaries and sports programs for BBC.  A prominent disability advocate and one of the first physically disabled television presenters in the UK. He contracted polio as an infant, resulting in using a wheelchair. 

Adepitan was part of the British wheelchair basketball team at the 2004 Summer Paralympics, winning a bronze medal. He is involved in various charities promoting access to sports for disabled individuals. He has also acted in shows like Casualty and Desperados. In recent years, he has hosted travel documentaries, including Africa with Ade Adepitan and Climate Change: Ade on the Frontline. 

In 2021, he was selected to present open-access meetings for a scientific group reporting on global environmental changes.

19th July Alastair Campbell

is a British writer, communicator, Podcast host, and strategist. He gained recognition for his role as Tony Blair’s spokesman and press secretary. Born in Yorkshire, he studied at Cambridge University and embarked on a career in journalism.

Campbell played a significant role in creating New Labour and guiding the party to power. He served as the Prime Minister’s Chief Press Secretary before becoming the Director of Communications and Strategy. 

He has authored of many books about politics.  He is open about is mental health conditions, making a documentary in 2019 for the BBC Alastair Campbell: Depression and Me.    

18th July Dr Victor Pineda,

Pineda, an American urban planner and scholar, has made noteworthy contributions in the field of inclusive and accessible smart cities. Diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA-Type II).  Pineda’s expertise have allowed him to establish himself as a globally recognised human rights expert. He has been appointed twice by the president for his exceptional abilities and currently leads the Inclusive Cities Lab at the prestigious Institute for Urban and Regional Development, UC Berkeley.

Early in his professional journey, Pineda attained the distinction of becoming the youngest government delegate involved in the creation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This monumental achievement propelled him to launch the World Enabled Global Initiative, a disability affiliate program that leverages the influence of prominent disabled persons’ organisations and intergovernmental agencies to bring about meaningful change. Additionally, he established the Pineda Foundation, a voluntary non-profit organisation dedicated to advocating for the rights and dignities of young individuals with disabilities.

17th July Frida Kahlo, 

Frida Kahlo is now a worldwide recognised figure with her image becoming an ironic one; But how much do you know about the woman behind the image.  A Mexican self-portrait painter who love of art was encourage in her childhood as a way to focus her time whilst recovering from including polio and later spinal and pelvis damage from a car accident. She discovered her talent and passion for painting.

One of Kahlo’s notable artworks that portrays her disabilities is The Broken Column (1944). This painting portrays her standing on a beach, with the beach serving as the background while her body takes the foreground. Her body is depicted as open in the middle, revealing a rod and restrictive medical corsets that were an integral part of her life. The presence of embedded nails throughout her body highlights her pain and struggles.

In another artwork titled The Tree of Hope, Keep Firm, Kahlo depicted two versions of herself. The sun is portrayed on the left side of the background, while the moon graces the right side. The ground on both sides is fractured with deep crevices spanning across the canvas. Kahlo painted an open wound down her back and hip on the back of her body. On the left side, she is adorned in a red gown, clutching her restrictive medical corsets. Additionally, she holds a sign bearing the words, “Tree of hope stands firm.”

Throughout her life, Kahlo faced her disabilities head-on, transforming them into works of art. She created numerous paintings that portrayed her personal challenges. Her unfaltering determination and refusal to be defined by her disabilities served as a powerful testament to her resilience, influencing countless individuals.

16th July John Nash, 

John Forbes Nash Jr,  an American mathematician, was given the prestigious 1994 Nobel Prize for Economics in recognition of his groundbreaking advancements in the field of game theory. 

Beginning his pioneering work in the 1950s, Nash revolutionised the study of mathematics by delving into the intricacies of rivalries between competitors with varying interests. His extensive research on game theory culminated in the formulation of the Nash equilibrium, an optimal outcome attainable by all participants in a finite game. Despite its inherent limitations, the Nash equilibrium has found wide application among business strategists.
Nash embarked on his academic journey at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, initially pursuing a course in chemical engineering before ultimately shifting his focus to chemistry and mathematics.

He successfully obtained both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics in 1948, remarkable achievements in their own right, before proceeding to complete his doctorate at Princeton University at the young age of 22. Subsequently, he was appointed to the faculty at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and devoted his research efforts to the field of partial differential equations.  Nash’s ongoing battles with mental illness led to his resignation from MIT in the late 1950s. 

Nash was later treated in Hospital for exhibiting symptoms of paranoia, persecutory delusions, hallucinations, and a gradual withdrawal from social interaction. Following thorough evaluation, medical professionals diagnosed him with schizophrenia. In 1961, Mr. Nash was then admitted to the New Jersey State Hospital located in Trenton. Throughout the subsequent nine years, he underwent periodic stays at psychiatric hospitals.   

John Nash life story was depicted in the Hollywood film a beautiful mind,  which I remember going to see when I was an assistant occupational therapist in a mental health hospital.  
However the Film falsely claimed that Nash’s recovery was down to medication and the care he received in hospital.   In fact he stopped using medication in the 1970’s as this article in the Guardian at the time of his death explains,  its an example of the medical model health care wanting to control the narrative as to how a person might live the life they want to,  

15th July Helen Keller,

Helen Keller, was an American author and educator who most likely due to scarlet fever as a baby, lost both her vision and hearing.  She attended a School from the age of six, where she began to learn how to associate objects with words through finger signals on her palm, read sentences by feeling raised words on cardboard, and construct her own sentences by arranging words on a frame. Keller also learned to lip-read by placing her fingers on the lips and throat of the speaker while simultaneously having the words spelled out for her.
Keller, began writing about blindness, a subject that was considered taboo in women’s magazines at the time due to its association with venereal disease. Her articles were published in the Ladies’ Home Journal, and other prominent magazines such as The Century, McClure’s, and The Atlantic Monthly.

Throughout her life, Keller documented her experiences in several books, including “The Story of My Life” (1903), “Optimism” (1903), “The World I Live In” (1908), “Light in My Darkness and My Religion” (1927), “Helen Keller’s Journal” (1938), and “The Open Door” (1957). In 1913, she began giving lectures with the assistance of an interpreter, primarily on behalf of the American Foundation for the Blind. She also played a significant role in the formation of commissions for the blind in 30 states by 1937. Keller cofounded the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920 alongside civil rights activist Roger Nash Baldwin and others.

14th July – Virginia Woolf

A British novelist known for works such as To the Lighthouse and Orlando, From the age of 13, Woolf had symptoms that today would be diagnosed as bipolar disorder she experienced manic, depression and psychosis episode, ending in her taking her own at age 59.

Her diaries and letters showcase her sharp wit and also provide insight into the richness of her relationships and her ability to appreciate the simple pleasures of everyday life. Woolf’s writing outlines her complex relationship with her long term mental health condition. Demonstrating that her engagement in writing was therapeutic for Woolf. She wrestled with the notion of whether her illness was an insurmountable obstacle or indeed a necessary condition for her art.

One poignant entry in Woolf’s diary reads, “The only way I keep afloat is by working.” For her, writing was an absolute necessity, but it was also a way to confront her innermost thoughts and emotions. At times, Woolf believed that only by sinking into the depths of her depression and psychosis could she arrive at the truth. It’s a chilling metaphor that appropriately captures the way Woolf would end her life – by succumbing herself in water.

13th July Selina Mills

Selina Mills is a writer, journalist, and activist who is visually impaired. She is dedicated to advocating for the experiences of blind individuals throughout history and is committed to reshaping our understanding of blindness in a historical context.

Selina has held senior positions as a reporter and broadcast journalist at renowned organizations such as Reuters, The Daily Telegraph, and the BBC. During her tenure at the BBC, Selina actively contributed to the groundbreaking series Disability: A New History (2013), which has received global recognition and was rebroadcasted worldwide. Currently, she is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s In Touch program, where she enlightens listeners on various topics ranging from the history of blindness to audio description.

Today see the publication Selina’s book, Life Unseen: A story of blindness. A thought-provoking work that examines the shifting perceptions of blindness throughout the centuries and thoroughly explores the personal impact of these notions on Selina’s view of her own blindness. Get the book here

12th July – Claude Monet

Claude Monet, a distinguished French painter acclaimed for spearheading the artistic movement known as Impressionism. This movement ardently focuses on capturing the transitory interplay of light and color in one’s surroundings. As Monet entered his sixties, he commenced experiencing alterations in his visual perception, particularly pertaining to his discernment of colour. He persisted in his artistic pursuits despite these challenges. When he reached the age of 72, he received a diagnosis of nuclear cataracts affecting both of his eyes. Among Monet’s most celebrated masterpieces are notable works such as “Poppies” and “Woman With a Parasol.

11th July – Brad Lomax

Brad Lomax, was a member of the Black Panther Party, who also made significant contributions to the Americans Disability Rights movement in the 1970s. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  Lomax’s experiences navigating health care systems in Oakland fuelled his determination to advocate for people with disabilities.

He played a role in the historic protest became known as the “504 Sit-in”. This protest progress disability rights in America and helped pave the way for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to become law in 1990, which started the idea for celebrating disability and later became known as disability pride month.

He was integral in connecting the disabled activists with the Panthers, who provided them with hot meals and supplies needed to withstand the long Sit-in. Disabled leaders of the 504 Sit-in widely acknowledge and credit much of the occupation’s success to the Black Panthers.  

Not only was Lomax involved in ideas that now form disability history month he also understood that allyship is key to activist movements.  

10th July – Dr. Maya Angelou

Known for her captivating poetry and literary works. Many are unaware that she also experienced selective mutism, a condition that emerged from a trauma in her childhood. Meaning she did not speak for five years, during this time she developed a deep love for language and the power of listening during this silent period.

Dr. Angelou blossomed into one of the most influential black women in history. Her talents spanned various art forms, including dancing, acting, singing, and writing.

Born Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, adopting the name Maya Angelou in 1952 to align with her career in calypso singing.

Throughout her career, Dr. Angelou explored the complexities of the human condition through her works. Students often described her classes as profound lessons in what it means to be human. She taught a range of humanities courses, including “World Poetry in Dramatic Performance,” “Race, Politics and Literature,” “African Culture and Impact on U.S.,” “Race in the Southern Experience,” and “Shakespeare and the Human Condition.” 

One of Dr. Angelou’s guiding principles was the recognition of our shared humanity. She often quoted the Latin saying, “I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me,” borrowed from the African playwright Terentius Afer. This philosophy stemmed from Terentius’ experience as a Roman slave in the 2nd century BC, who later emerged as an influential writer.

By embracing this belief, Dr. Angelou encouraged a deeper understanding and empathy among her students and audiences alike. This has always struck me in something the profession needs to understand more, exploring the connection with occupation the impact trauma and being human.

9th July- Emmanuel Yeboah

Emmanual, a Paralympic athlete and activist from Ghana in West Africa, born in 1977 without a right shin bone. Within Africa culture it is often believed that people born with disabilities are cursed and consequently excluded from society. Emmanual’s own father abandoned him because of this belief. However, his mother stood by him and encouraged him to pursue his dreams. Emmanual attended school, but at the age of 13, he left to support his family by shining shoes.

After the death of his mother, Emmanual was motivated to bring attention to the challenges faced by disabled people. In 2001, he embarked on a 400-mile bike ride across Ghana to demonstrate that disability does not mean inability. 
Along his journey, he spoke to disabled children and delivered speeches to church leaders and dignitaries.

As a result of his successful bike ride, the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) provided Emmanual with a grant and invited him to participate in the Triathlon Challenge in California. He completed the 56-mile event in an impressive seven hours.

During his time in the United States, Emmanual was given access to a prosthetic leg.  Following surgery and a six-week recovery period, he participated in the another Triathlon Challenge and reduced his completion time by three hours.
He establish the Emmanuel Education Foundation, back in Ghana, which supports students with disabilities. 

An example of having faith and determination and relisance pays off when people are give the opportunities, and tools to do occupations they enjoy. 

8th JulyRobin Cavendish

Robin Francis Cavendish, at the age of 28, contracted polio, which resulted in paralysis from the neck down, necessitating him to rely entirely on a machine that assisted with his breathing. This condition was commonly referred to as “responauts”. During the late 1950s, individuals with similar conditions were typically expected to spend the remainder of their lives in a hospital setting. Despite the advice of professionals, after a year, Cavendish made the decision to leave the hospital and surpassed the life expectancy predicted by experts.
During the 1960s, Cavendish sought out and documented the circumstances of all the “responauts” in Britain, as there had not yet been any record of the number of people who used “iron lungs” for assistance.

With the assistance of his friend Teddy Hall, an esteemed professor at Oxford, Cavendish developed a wheelchair that incorporated a built-in respirator, enabling him to leave his family’s residence. This wheelchair, created in 1962, served as a model for future designs, as Cavendish was determined to make mobility accessible to others.
Cavendish secured funding for the first twelve chairs from the Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust, and eventually convinced the Department of Health at that time to provide funding for a series of chairs, manufactured by Teddy Hall’s company, Littlemore Scientific Engineering.
Cavendish actively participated in testing and promoting various equipment that significantly improved the lives of numerous individuals living with disabilities. This includes the Possum, which was developed by scientists in conjunction with Cavendish at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. The Possum was designed to electronically control the immediate surrounding environment for individuals with severe disabilities. 

By solely using his head, Cavendish was able to activate the Possum’s coordinating box, allowing him to carry out occupations like making phone calls, adjusting the television, or regulating the central heating.

Many of the people I have shared so far, show such determination to live the life they want to and to do the occupations, they want, need and or required to do, often when the world tells them they can’t or should not. Something to think about.

7th July – Charles Dickens 

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), a renowned Victorian writer, gained immense popularity during this period for his works such as Oliver Twist (1838) and A Christmas Carol (1843). In addition to his literary achievements, Dickens made noteworthy contributions to English society in various aspects, including crime, education, medicine, and social class.

But did you know that, Dickens exhibited behaviours that align with what we now identify as obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is believed that he experienced epilepsy as a child and throughout his life, which is reflected in some of the characters that were described has having health conditions or disabilities in his books. 

As Dickens entered his thirties, he began to experience episodes of depression that impacted on his creative flow. The depression worsened with age, ultimately resulting in his separation from his wife. His depression eventually took a toll on his creativity, causing a significant decline in his previously prolific output.

Like many Victorians at the time Dickens used opium as a painkiller it is believed this may have contributed to a stroke, in 1869. On June 8, 1870, during a dinner, Dickens suddenly collapsed, later diagnosed with apoplexy. He passed away the following day. Dickens left his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished.

For me this is an example of how although health conditions can have an impact on a persons length and quality of life they can also be the reason people create great things like his books that are still loved to this day.  

6th July – Rick Allen

Born in Dronfield, Derbyshire 1963, Rick joined Def Leppard when he was just 15 years old, Affectionately known to fans as Thunder God, Allen has rightfully earned a reputation as one of the greatest drummers of all time.

He has spent the majority of his career performing with remarkable musical skill and passion, all with one handed following a severe car accident in Sheffield, resulting in the loss of his left arm.

The band supported Allen in his journey of relearning his craft. Rick taught himself how to play the drums once again. The band, returned to the stage  two years later and continued their musical journey with renewed determination and resilience. Allen’s contributions have played an instrumental role in the band’s commercial success, with hit releases such as “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Hysteria,” and “Love Bites.” 

Showing that your can engage in any occupation, if you have the will to do so.

5th of July – Professor Mike Oliver On the 75th Birthday of the NHS we still have a lot to learn about embedding the social model within its practice.

Professor Oliver is widely recognised as the individual who coined and popularised the concept of the ‘social model’ of disability.

The social model of disability posits that the obstacles people with disabilities face are primarily a result of societal structures and attitudes, rather than their impairments or medical conditions. In his extensive body of work, Professor Oliver eloquently explained that it is society itself that creates disability, and by removing barriers and fostering inclusivity, we can significantly reduce and potentially eliminate disability altogether. This paradigm shift transformed disability from solely a medical issue to a human rights concern.

Many influential figures in the fields of legislation, policy-making, and social progress credit Professor Oliver and the social model as their ‘lightbulb moment.’ While the principles of the social model were initially laid out in a pamphlet by the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Discrimination in 1976, it was Professor Oliver who developed and popularised the term through his 1983 book, “Social Work With Disabled People.” This book played a pivotal role in the burgeoning disability rights movement, offering activists a framework to combat discrimination and challenge the prevailing notion that accessibility solely revolves around individuals with disabilities.

In an interview, Professor Oliver expressed his desire to present a more optimistic perspective that went beyond viewing disability as exclusively tragic and disabled individuals as unemployable. His goal was to highlight the potential achievements of disabled people if society removed the barriers they faced. 

Born in Chatham, Kent in 1945, Professor Oliver himself became disabled in 1962 due to a spinal injury. Following a year of rehabilitation at Stoke Mandeville hospital, he found employment as a teacher at Borstal Young Offenders Institution. He pursued higher education when legislation changed to require a degree for continued teaching, initially enrolling in sociology at the University of Reading. However, due to inadequate support, he had to leave within weeks. Undeterred, he eventually completed a master’s degree and a doctorate at the University of Kent.

Throughout his career, Professor Oliver effectively bridged the realms of activism and academia. He held the position of Professor Emeritus of Disability Studies at the University of Greenwich and continued to be an active speaker, writer, and publisher, producing influential works such as “Understanding Disability,” “The Politics of Disablement,” and “The New Politics of Disablement.”

Professor Oliver who passed away in 2019 will be remembered as the pioneer of the social model, the individual who established disability studies as an academic discipline, and the man who sparked a global movement, profoundly impacting the lives of countless disabled individuals worldwide.

4th July – Dorothy Hodgkin

Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin was a highly esteemed British chemist who made significant contributions in the field of X-ray crystallography. Her groundbreaking work in determining the structure of biomolecules paved the way for advancements in structural biology.

One of Hodgkin’s notable achievements was confirming the structure of penicillin, a discovery that had been previously hypothesised by Edward Abraham and Ernst Boris Chain. Additionally, she played a crucial role in mapping the structure of vitamin B12, an accomplishment that earned her the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964, making her the third woman to receive this prestigious honour. After 35 years of dedicated research, Hodgkin also elucidated the structure of insulin in 1969.

In 1934, Dorothy began to experience hand pain that caused swelling and deformity. Following an infection after giving birth to her first child, a doctor diagnosed her with chronic rheumatoid arthritis. In an effort to manage a severe rheumatoid arthritis attack resulting from the infection, Dorothy sought treatment at a clinic in Buxton, which included thermal baths and gold treatments. 

After completing the treatment, she returned to the laboratory but faced challenges using the main switch on the x-ray equipment due to the condition of her hands. To address this, she ingeniously adapted this occupation by created a lever of her own to operate the switch. Over time, her condition worsened, resulting in debilitating deformities and chronic pain in her hands and feet. In her final years, Dorothy relied on a wheelchair for mobility but maintained active involvement in her scientific career.

3rd of July – David Blunkett

A retired labour politician and government cabinet member. He was born blind in 1947, living most of his life in Sheffield he was a local councillor for 18 years before entering parliament in 1987 as Labour MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough. Within 15 months he had been appointed Shadow Local Government Minister before becoming Shadow Health Secretary and then Shadow Education Secretary.

With Labour’s election victory in 1997 he became Education and Employment Secretary. In 2001 David became Home Secretary where he dealt with the changes in society that followed the September 11 attacks. David Cameron, recalled his first impression of David:  ‘As a new back bencher, I will never forget coming to this place in 2001 and, in light of the appalling terrorist attacks that had taken place across the world, seeing the strong leadership he gave on the importance of keeping our country safe. He is a remarkable politician, a remarkable man.’

After the 2005 general election he became Work and Pensions Secretary, retiring for public life in 2015.   David now is an associate governor of The Royal National College for the Blind providing advice and great support, enabling them to lobbied the government over reforms to education for young people with special educational needs and the need for specialist programmes to help people with a visual impairment in to employment.

2nd July – Henri Matisse

was an artist known primarily for his accomplishments in painting, although he also excelled as a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor.  Matisse played a pivotal role in defining the groundbreaking developments in the visual arts during the early years of the twentieth century. His contributions to the fields of painting and sculpture were particularly notable.

In the later years of his career, Matisse encountered ill health that, meant a reduction in his physical strength spending lots of time in bed and needed the use of a wheelchair, he adapted his artistic approach and continued to create a series of works known as gouaches découpées. This technique involved cutting or tearing painted paper into various shapes, which were then arranged and affixed to a surface under the guidance of Matisse himself. Notably, some of these works, such as “The Snail,” boasted considerable dimensions.

The exploration of this technique, which Matisse also delved into in his picture book “Jazz” (published in 1947) and other artistic endeavours, presented him with new possibilities. He described this technique as allowing him to “draw in the colour,” simplifying the process for him. Rather than outlining the shape and then filling it with colour, he directly incorporated the colour into the creation, with one aspect influencing the other.

Overall, Henri Matisse’s significant contributions to the arts and his innovative approach, particularly through the use of gouaches découpées, have solidified his legacy as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, but his ability to adapt to physical changes in his body and still engage in the meaningful occupation of creating art is lesser known.

AHP, Blog Post, Occupational Therapy, RCOT, Recovery

What is #rehabilitation, why is it so hard to define and do we need to define it? 

Acknowledgment – This blog post is a personal opinion piece, based on thoughts and ideas about my own lived experience, writing is an occupation that helps me make sense of my thoughts and ideas. I acknowledge these may not be shared others, and respect peoples rights to have, different even conflicting ideas.  This website has an accessible feature, that allows different accessible formats by simply clicking on a button labelled ‘Accessibility Menu’ that appears in green on all pages. It will provide you with a number of options to change the appearance to meet your accessibility needs.  This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

This week at work, I attended a two day event to look at the provision of mental health rehabilitation services that the trust I work for provides and how we might redesign it as part of the national driver of community transformation expected within all NHS mental health service providers.  

In a nut shell community transformation is about dramatically changing how services are run by braking down barriers to care, by removing criteria and long referral processes.  A service that meets the needs of the individual rather than the individual having to fit in to the narrow criteria of a service. 

Brilliant, just the sort of service I have talked about when reflecting on my own journey of recovery.  

Changing cultures are hard, and perhaps although a lot of difficulties with poor practice that dehumanises people still remain within institutional services.   Mental health and learning disabilities organisations and national drivers are ahead of the curve when it comes to progressing towards services that meet the needs of people.   

Why might this be?  

For me it’s a move towards, co-creation, recovery focused and inclusive practices that don’t just listen to stories of lived experiences,  but actively invites it in to work for the organisations and develop alongside traditional health and care professionals changes in culture, and service delivery.  

Something NHS services, delivering physical health services and local authorities that provide social care need to embrace.  

So at this event there was a mixture of health professionals working within the current rehabilitation service, like nurses, health care assistants, psychologists, occupational therapists, peer support workers,  experts by experience, managers, service leaders, etc..

Our first task was to define rehabilitation. What it is, how it is different from other services offered by the trust. In essence the unique selling point.  

This blog will focus on this question as perhaps you might be surprised how difficult a group of people who have worked in or received care from rehabilitation services found it so hard to define.  

Where to start? 

Perhaps with the general population understanding of rehabilitation or rehab as it is often referred to.  Like me your first thought might be of the Amy Winehouse song Rehab and the lines ‘They tried to make me go to Rehab, but I said no, no, no’

We often hear of celebrities attending ‘Rehab’ for addiction issues,  so it’s easy to understand when you might start talking to a person about getting some rehab,  they might be confusion if an addiction to substances is not a priority concern or not apparent at all.  

But when you add another word for context it becomes more understandable.  

  • Nero rehabilitation (which was the rehab I have personally experienced) 
  • Mental health rehabilitation 
  • Physical Rehabilitation
  • Vocational Rehabilitation 
  • Cognitive Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation Therapy.  

So what are the origins of the word?  

The noun rehabilitation comes from the Latin prefix

 “re” meaning “again” and “habitare” meaning “make fit.” 

Dictionary definitions 

plural rehabilitations

  • the action, process, or result of rehabilitating or of being rehabilitated: such as a restoration especially by therapeutic means to an improved condition of physical function 
  • the process of restoring a person to a drug- or alcohol-free state
  • the process of restoring someone (such as a criminal) to a useful and constructive place in society
  • the rehabilitation of prisoners
  • the restoration of something damaged or deteriorated to a prior good condition the rehabilitation of the neighbourhood the rehabilitation of a person’s reputation

How do other organisations define rehabilitation? 

The World health organisation says Rehabilitation is defined as “a set of interventions designed to optimise functioning and reduce disability in individuals with health conditions in interaction with their environment”.

From NHS England’s guide on commissioning rehabilitation. A modern healthcare system must do more than just stop people dying. It needs to equip them to live their lives, fulfil their maximum potential and optimise their contribution to family life, their community and society as a whole. Rehabilitation achieves this by focusing on the impact that the health condition, developmental difficulty or disability has on the person’s life, rather than focusing just on their diagnosis. It involves working in partnership with the person and those important to them so that they can maximise their potential and independence, and have choice and control over their own lives. It is a philosophy of care that helps to ensure people are included in their communities, employment and education rather than being isolated from  the mainstream and pushed through a system with ever-dwindling hopes of leading a fulfilling life.

What about occupational therapy and rehabilitation?  

In 2020 the royal college of occupational therapists (RCOT) ran events called the Big Rehab Conversations to help them develop best practice for rehabilitation, identify the challenges and ensure the advice they offer reflects what’s actually happening on the ground.

Within the RCOT Informed View – mental health rehabilitation it is argued that 

The term ‘rehabilitation’ can be problematic within the mental health sector, as it is typically associated with complex rehabilitation for people with psychosis, delivered in tertiary services. This means occupational therapy delivered in wider mental health services, such as community teams, is not commonly framed as rehabilitation.

As a broad term, the aim of rehabilitation is to maximise people’s ability to live, work and learn. Occupational therapy interventions focus on helping people to achieve these goals to the best of their potential. This aligns with a recovery approach in adult mental health services and a reablement approach within older people’s mental health services.

Occupational therapists are underrepresented within multidisciplinary mental health teams. Where roles do exist, capacity to offer rehabilitation may be diluted by generic responsibilities.

Across the UK there is a renewed focus on the best way to deliver rehabilitation. This requires innovative new approaches and service redesign, co-produced and co-delivered with people who access services. This offers a unique opportunity for occupational therapists to influence development and implementation.

They go on to state occupational therapist need to lead mental health rehabilitation reform with a focus on meaningful occupations, ensuring people keep links with local employment and education, manage daily living and social skills, and take part in leisure and community activities. It is fundamental that rehabilitation is person and occupation focused and that services address environmental, social and economic need.

Of course this is a statement i’m going to agree with because occupational therapy is my bread and butter and anything that helps occupational therapy being seen as a treatment tool rather than the name of a profession is always going to be helpful,  but there is a need to look at what resources are available and what other skills other professions can bring,  for me its more about having an approach to rehab that is important one that has a common way of working with people, rather than doing things for people.  

If rehabilitation is about the person do we need to define it?  

Is it the complexity of a persons needs, and the goals they want to accomplish that is the essence of rehabilitation?  

When I reflect on my own lived experience of rehab it wasn’t focused on my goals but a set of expectations, expectations I would walk again, when that expectation took longer than expected, services were at a loss of what to do!  

At times it felt like they had given up.   

My goals and wants were thought about to an extent but not explored, not set out as a goal to work towards.  Walking again, was never my priority.  I got there, but only when I was allow to hold the rains myself and seek support privately that my goals were really addressed.  

  • Finding passion again
  • Sharing my thoughts 
  • Writing 
  • Doing art,
  • Being a wife and not a person who needed constant caring for 
  • Enjoying life 
  • Getting back to work  

Washing myself, dressing my self, feeding myself were needs but not priorities for me.  They were met in a way that was satisfying to me.  

That’s rehabilitation to me, finding away through what is difficult to be the person I wanted and do the things I wanted, that make my life fulfilling.  

By the end of the two day event, we have created an outline of a new model of delivering rehabilitation,  but i’m not sure we were able to define it in a way that was agreeable, and maybe that’s the point?  


A professional’s guide to functional rehabilitation – The OT Practice


rehab | Etymology, origin and meaning of rehab by etymonline 

Rehabilitation Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster

Defining rehabilitation: An exploration of why it is attempted, and why it will always fail – PMC

(PDF) What is rehabilitation? An empirical investigation leading to an evidence-based description

Ableism, AHP, Blog Post, Occupational Therapy, RCOT

Let’s encourage an inclusive culture of understanding by using words. – Why we should stop using acronyms, and why occupational therapist should be leading the way.  #EncourageInclusiveCultures  #UseTheWords

Acknowledgment – This blog post is a personal opinion piece, based on thoughts and ideas about my own lived experience. I acknowledge these will not be shared others, and respect peoples rights to have, different even conflicting ideas.  This website has an accessible feature, that allows different accessible formats by simply clicking on a button labelled ‘Accessibility Menu’ that appears in green on all pages. It will provide you with a number of options to change the appearance to meet your accessibility needs.  This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

Acronyms – an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and usually pronounced as a word.  

Acronyms are common place in most lines of work, particularly in health and social care, but in the interest of fostering inclusive cultures,  should we remove the use of acronyms altogether?  

Acronyms are useful, they save us time.  Good practice when using them in a document is to write out the full meaning first followed by the acronym. However this often does not happen, or they are so commonly used in some settings that the words they stand for are hardly used, sometimes becoming only known as the acronym.  

This can create problems with clear communication and levels of understanding for a number of reasons, 

  • Acronyms can often be a barrier to those not ‘in the know’. 
  • Levels of embarrassment about asking or a concern you may be considered ignorant leads to avoidance in asking.
  • Communicating effectively to others that don’t work in the same field can become difficult
  • Sometimes acronyms can mean different things to different groups or can stand for more than one thing. 
  • Those who are neuro-divergent, often find following the flow difficult when acronyms are used.
  • Sometimes making acronyms can create odd or funny words. 
  • We can become complacent, forgetting to explain terms to people accessing the services we provide. 

Detailed below are some examples from personal experiences;

A great example of an acronym that means more than one thing is OT.  This stands for both occupational therapy and occupational therapist,  often the context of the rest of the sentence might give a clue as to which term is being referred to, but it can also mean people aren’t sure.  

Recently I was involved in a project updating a resource in the national health service (NHS) trust I work for, and a senior occupational therapist asked if RCOT stood for royal college of occupational therapy or therapist.  They were so used to just hearing RCOT that despite being a member for many years, found themselves asking the question.  

My job title is lead occupational therapist –  When I was once talking to a police officer as part of my role he said to me so you’re a LOT? and giggled to himself.  

Often titles of meetings as referred to as their acronyms,  My diary is now full of them, PIPA, OTLGN, DDTV, LTHC to name but a few, often these meetings are just referred to as their acronyms,

Within an occupational therapy meeting I attend last month, I kept hearing the term ATR, later after asking for clarity,  it meant activity through recovery –  a book I know well, but never heard it referred to as an acronym,  perhaps evidences that we can create a quick and easy language for ourselves, that excludes new people. 

There are lots of other acronyms the occupational therapy profession, they become second nature, but aren’t easily understood by other professions, or our clients.    


Often it is said that occupational therapy is poorly understood,  surely we are not helping this when not fully explaining what we mean?  

For example, saying I have completed a MOHOST in a multidisciplinary team meeting, could be meaningless to other professions,  but saying I have completed a model of human occupation screening tool,  gives some context that could be understood at some level.  There is another common tool used within mental health settings MHOST (Mental Health Optimal Staffing Tool) using both has often course confusion. 

I’m a public governor for a local acute national health services trust, despite working for a mental health national health service trust for 20 years.  I’m coming across acronyms I am unfamiliar with as they are not commonly used in my area of work.  I’m having to ask constantly what something stands for, sometimes I can work it out, but I now always ask to make sure I understand, often other governors  thank me for asking.  

Today I held some interviews for some newly qualified occupational therapists, in the part where candidates can ask us questions, one person asked what the acronyms on the front of the job description meant.  The job description is a generic one for band 5 occupational therapists within the trust so on the front is has acronyms related to the different specialities AMH, MHSOP, CYPMHS, LD.  We are so used to using these acronyms within the trust,  we don’t even explain them on a job description for newly qualified staff that might be totally new to the field.  

I’m dyslexic and have long covid, both create difficulty with processing skills, often when I say acronyms out loud I get the letters muddled. For example CPD and CBT. I know the meaning of both, but because they are so similar my brain muddles them up.  I find saying the words stops this from happening.  

Continuing Professional Development,  

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.   

When I hear another person saying acronyms out loud, my brain takes a little longer to process that information and recall the meaning, at times I lose the flow of the topic because my brain focuses on remembering what the acronym stands for, or wonders what it means and I get lost. 

I have lots of experiences of asking for clarity from colleagues, and having a response of annoyance that I asked, being told ‘I’m not going to explain that to you,’ or eyes rolled at me.  This used to make me not speak up, not contribute to meetings, in fear of being thought of as foolish or not worthy of my role.  However what I have learnt is that this sort of behaviour is not an inclusive way of working, it shows ignorance of others diverse needs and can be interpreted as ableist.   It’s that persons problem not mine and at least I am clear in what was meant and feel better informed.   

There has been times when people have kindly offered to make a crib sheet for me that includes common acronyms,  this although meant well, is ableist it could be interrupted as I hear you have a difficultly  but I’m not willing to change my pattern of behaviour, you need to conform to neurotypical ways of working.  

The health and care professions council (HCPC) have revised their standards of proficiency for registrants, they have significantly expanded the role of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), placing specific importance on making sure that practice is inclusive for all service users. Registrants must:

  • 5: recognise the impact of culture, equality and diversity on practice and practise in a non-discriminatory and inclusive manner
  • 5.1: respond appropriately to the needs of all different groups and individuals in practice, recognising this can be affected by difference of any kind including, but not limited to, protected characteristics, intersectional experiences and cultural differences
  • 5.2: understand equality legislation and apply it to their practice
  • 5.3: recognise the potential impact of their own values, beliefs and personal biases (which may be unconscious) on practice and take personal action to ensure all service users and carers are treated appropriately with respect and dignity
  • 5.4: understand the duty to make reasonable adjustments in practice and be able to make and support reasonable adjustments in theirs and others’ practice
  • 5.5: recognise the characteristics and consequences of barriers to inclusion, including for socially isolated groups
  • 5.6: actively challenge these barriers, supporting the implementation of change wherever possible
  • 5.7: recognise that regard to equality, diversity and inclusion needs to be embedded in the application of all HCPC standards, across all areas of practice

Expectations of registrants:

  • Registrants are always expected to provide care to all their service users and ensure their specific needs are responded to
  • Registrants should be able to identify when a service user’s care needs to be adjusted because they have a protected characteristic
  • Instead of waiting for a service user to raise the need for accommodations, a registrant should be proactively thinking about how to make the care they offer as accessible as possible

Occupational therapy has roots in social justice, which is key to inclusive ways of working. The royal college of occupational therapists statement on diversity says, 

“The principles of diversity and equality are core to the practice of occupational therapy and are enshrined within the RCOT Code of Ethics. We believe that all people should be treated with dignity and respect, above all as equal members of society with the same choices, rights and privileges. Discrimination and prejudice have no place in our practice and no place in society.”

Royal College of Occupational Therapists

By dismissing the ideas of at least making an effort to reduce your usage of acronyms it could be argued you’re not living up to the standards expected of you.

In conclusion there are many reasons to stop the use of acronyms,  it might feel hard, feel unnecessary,  but we have a responsibility to be clear and inclusive in clinical practise,  by embracing behaviours that foster clear communication ensuring we are understood, can only be a good thing.    

I hope reading this has given you time to reflect,  review your own use of acronyms,  discuss the idea within your teams.  

Join the campaign to change a culture of using terms that only includes those in the know, by saying what you mean, being clear and ensure others understand.  

Share your own thoughts and experiences, feel free to use the graphics below to spread the word, or create your own and share.  

I pledge to stop using acronyms and always use the words; so everyone can be included and have a clearer understanding.

Blog Post, Feminist Themed, Occupational Therapy

It’s International Women’s Day 2023 – What might this years theme mean to occupational therapy #EmbraceEquity #IWD2023

Acknowledgment –  International woman’s day is a celebration of all women, woman who are born woman or later become women. It’s important to understand intersectionality when exploring woman’s issues. People who identify as none binary need to also be recognised, they will experiences even greater inequity, all in society should understand and work to break down barriers.   This website has an accessible feature, that allows different accessible formats by simply clicking on a button labelled ‘Accessibility Menu’ that appears in green on all pages. It will provide you with a number of options to change the appearance to meet your accessibility needs.  This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

It’s International Women’s Day 2023 (Wednesday 8 March), which is celebrated every year and has been observed since the early 1900’s

This years campaign theme: #EmbraceEquity is a focus on gender equity and aims to spread the understanding in the difference between equity and equality. Below is an image that helps demonstrates the difference, showing that people start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging requires equitable action, to ensure they have access to opportunities.

Alt text – image shows a purple circle in background with an image of three purple figures on the left-hand side all representing different heights but standing on a green equal sign with the word equality underneath. To the right is an image of the same three figures standing at the same height because the green equal equal signs tested on different heights. The word equity is below this image.

Health equity was the theme of occupational therapy week in 2020 – and it really helped me think about the needs of those that access occupational therapy and how systems and institutions often add to inequity rather than break them down.

So how might our occupational therapy practice or intervention be inequitable?

The profession its self has a gender, class, race and able bodied bias, with a majority of those practising occupational therapy in the UK being white educated able bodied women, this even unconsciously will have an affect on how it is practised, developed and viewed.

Although there are many models of occupational therapy, most have been developed by those that dominate the profession, we still have work to do to ensure, that the models we use in practise are critically reviewed to challenge for gender stereotypes, ableist attitudes, drawing attention to bias, and seek out better inclusion. 

Thankfully the change has already began with some collective activism, from groups like AbleOTUK, BAMEOTUK and LGBTQIA+OTUK, but forging equity isn’t limited to those from these groups, it requires everyone to be open to listening; learning and understanding what impact the power they hold has on how the profession id practices, be prepared to take action, even if it feels uncomfortable and become allies.

Task – this international woman’s day take some time out to embrace equity.

  • Reflect on the systems you work within, your occupational therapy practise including models and frames of references you use.
  • Think about who and how they were develop and what might be missing from them, are they bias?
  • Are there some interventions you only do with one gender?
  • Why might this be?
  • How have you and how will you learn more and become an ally to diversity?

Thanks for taking the time to read this – Rachel

Blog Post

On #InternationalWheelchairDay – A refection on being a wheelchair user. 

Image description: Photo of me, a white women, with short blonde hair. Wearing black velcro orthotic boots; a green dress with black tights that have different coloured spots on. sitting in my electric wheelchair.

Acknowledgment – This blog post is a personal opinion piece, based on thoughts and ideas about my own lived experience of disability. I acknowledge these will not be shared by all in the community, and respect their rights to have, different even conflicting ideas.  This website has an accessible feature, that allows different accessible formats by simply clicking on a button labelled ‘Accessibility Menu’ that appears in green on all pages. It will provide you with a number of options to change the appearance to meet your accessibility needs.  This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

Today 1st March 2023 is international wheelchair day, first celebrated in 2008 – you can find out more about its launch here

I’m choosing today to publish this blog exploring my thoughts about being a wheelchair users.  

I have now been back at work for almost five months, just this time I am using an electric wheelchair most of the time. So I now call myself a wheelchair user, but I struggle with this for many reasons.  

  1. I can walk all be it short distances. 
  2. I feel judged by those that know I can walk and wonder what they think of me. 
  3. I’m very privileged to be able to afford a wheelchair that meets my needs allowing me to do the occupations I need, want and are required to do,  (the wheelchair I have from wheelchairs services does not meet these needs.)
  4. I feel guilty about this. 
  5. I question if I have become to rely on the chair too much and should push myself more.   
  6. I feel the need to justify why I use the chair to myself, and to everyone every day, this never goes away. 
  7. I worry that health professionals involved in my care  judge me and think I should walk more – to improve my strength, help with managing weight, and a healthy lifestyle. 
  8. Some people make assumptions of your abilities, and I wish at times the chair or sticks I’m walking with were invisible so people saw just me. 
  9. The chair is a shield I can use to prevent people from seeing me, because that safer.  
  10. That I’m seen as someone who just thinks about my own needs. 

How do I manage these thoughts?

I think a lot – and try and share those thoughts appropriately,  I’m aware that a lot of my thoughts are my internal-ablism, and that some of the ways other people react to those using wheelchairs are ableist.  I have chosen to engage and have became embedded in the wider disability community.  This brings me comfort that I’m not alone in my experiences but also sadness that these thoughts and experiences are not going anywhere soon. 

I use the chair as it gives me so much freedom, more freedom than I have had even before spending over a year in hospital. I have at times in my life, used a wheelchair short term; On family holidays where we would need to walk long distances.  I remember a school trip to euro disney where I was very popular with the other kids as using the wheelchair meant we didn’t have to queue.   However like the orthotic boots or splints I wore as a child, when I became a teenager and young adult I stopped using aids that helped,  as I didn’t want to be seen as different, or challenged for not being disabled enough.  This lead to years of being a pain, feeling exhausted and frustrated. I often kept my pain secret in fear of being left out by others.

Now although I still question myself everyday and have intrusive thoughts that I’m always being judged negatively for my choices. I much happier with who I am,  and now I’m not in pain all the time, I’m much happier being able to enjoy a fully day out and not have to rest for two days after.   

There are lots of barriers to using the chair,  people often think it’s environmental barriers which often it is, but for me most of a barriers are other peoples assumptions.

These include: 

That people can’t walk. 

That people that can walk should not use a wheelchair.

That people need your help all the time .

That people’s communication and or ability to understand things will be affected.

That people can be talked about in their presence without including them because they don’t understand. 

That people don’t work. 

That people can’t work.

That people don’t want to work.

That people will expected to be treated special. 

That people should be treated as special.

That people don’t have relationships, and families.

That people are inspirational.

That people rely on benefits or are lucky to get benefits. 

That people claim benefits falsely.

That it’s ok to tell people how inspirational you find them.

That it’s ok to ask how people have sex. 

That it’s ok to ask what’s ‘wrong’ with people.

That its ok to comment on how things should be different so that people ‘like you’ can do things, 

That it’s ok not to take action on these comments and be an ally.

On international wheelchair day – I just want you to reflect 

Have I ever made any of the above assumptions?  

Why have I made them? 

What do I need to learn to ensure I better understand the barriers that people who use wheelchairs face?  

How will I learn this without putting more work on those that use wheelchairs?

Once I have taken the time to learn, what am I going to change?  

Blog Post

This Spoon Theory and Occupational Therapy

Originally written for RCOT blog on their website I am reposting here also.

Disability History Month is all about reflecting on movements within the disability community that shape better understanding and help to move toward equality for those living with long-term health conditions and/or disability. It is important that occupational therapists keep up to date with movements within the communities they work with. One very popular and in my opinion very appropriate theory for occupational therapy practice is the Spoon Theory. 

People who aren’t living with health conditions or disabilities often wake up with an unlimited amount of energy. They can get out of bed and manage their activities of daily living without a great deal of thought or planning. However, people living with physical health conditions, disabilities or mental illnesses may only start out each day with a certain amount of energy – or spoons. It varies from person to person, day to day and only you know, how many spoons you have. 

Christine illustrated her theory by giving an example: a person with a health condition like lupus, may wake up and feel they only have a certain amount of energy (say 12 spoons) explaining on an average day, the activities of daily living a person might want, need or are required to engage in would include:

  1. Wake up
  2. Brush your teeth
  3. Wash your face
  4. Get dressed
  5. Eat breakfast
  6. Go to the doctors
  7. Come home
  8. Make and eat dinner
  9. Change into your pyjamas

These are nine individual, tasks, activities or occupations, however the complexity of each requires different amounts of energy or spoons.  

‘Brushing your teeth is a routine and familiar occupation that may only use up one spoon. Whilst going to the doctor is more complex and uses all five occupational performance components (biomechanical, sensory motor, cognitive, intrapersonal, interpersonal), needing much more energy or spoons.

In Christine’s example, she states that going to the doctor might take six spoons, reflecting that this only leaves you with five spoons for everything else, stating there is no way you can make five spoons stretch far enough to manage all the other occupations you may want to engage in. Christine goes on to say:

‘You can opt to “borrow” spoons from the next day’s allowance. However, this means you start the next day in deficit. Imagine trying to get all those tasks done with an even smaller number of spoons! It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of overdoing it and exhausting yourself, due to not managing your spoons well enough’.

For me, this is a great theory that perfectly explains the idea of energy conservation within occupational therapy. The #Spoonies hashtag is being used within the disability community across social media to unite and identify people who struggle with energy management. 

Why not take some time to read up and search the hashtag, you might find some useful resources.


Blog Post

UK Disability History Month – A month in which the struggles of disabled people are remembered and victories celebrated

This Blog has also been posted on the RCOT blog site and AbleOTUK website

It has taken me a long time to feel comfortable with my identity, but I would describe myself as an occupational therapist who is neurodivergent, born with Cerebral Palsy (right hemiplegia). I am also dyslexic, have experienced episodes of depression, and now live with Long Covid after an extensive hospital admission and recovery journey, from COVID-19. I have an ongoing blog called ‘Exploring the Art of Occupation’ that I started writing in 2013 which focuses on my thoughts and journey as an occupational therapist with lived experience of disability.

I’m a second-generation occupational therapist, having worked within acute, rehabilitation and forensic mental health settings. I have recently returned to work in my role as Lead Occupational Therapist for Adult Mental Health Acute In-Patients and Rehabilitation services for TEWV NHS Foundation Trust. Alongside this I have always been active within the wider occupational therapy community, with voluntary roles including Treasurer of the RCOT Northern and Yorkshire Committee and OTalk team member – helping to run a weekly twitter chat about occupational therapy now in its eleventh year. 

I’m also a founding member of AbleOTUK, a network and advocacy group for occupational therapy staff and students with lived experiences of disabilities and or long-term health conditions, which launched in 2021. 

AbleOTUK have been using their social media platforms to promote awareness of events, and we wanted to celebrate Disability History Month which is now in its twelfth year but still developing movement. In this blog I explain the ideas behind Disability History Month. 

The United Kingdom Disability History Month (UKDHM) has been celebrated since 2010, taking place from the third week of November for four weeks. It was founded by Richard Rieser, a former teacher and equality champion, after encouragement from those involved in LGBT History Month and advisors on race equality suggested a need for a month to focus on Disability History. Founding supporting organisations included the Trades Union Congress, Disability coalitions and Scope. It was also supported by a motion in Parliament on 10th November 2010 signed by 79 members of parliament and can be viewed on the UK Parliament website. The motion reads as:

‘That this House welcomes the first ever Disability History Month that recognises the history of the struggle for equality and human rights; notes that in running from 22 November until 22 December 2010 it will cover International HIV/AIDS Day, International Day of People with Disabilities and International Human Rights Day; calls on schools, colleges, universities, local authorities, employers, the public and the media to recognise and celebrate the first UK Disability History Month; encourages them to campaign to improve the unequal position of disabled people in society and work with disability charities and trade unions in the struggle for equality and inclusion; urges the Government to ensure that its policies and latest spending cuts are properly assessed in terms of their impact on people with disabilities so that they do not exacerbate existing inequalities; and looks forward to this month and future years of Disability History Month success.’

In a 2013 BBC interview, Richard Rieser said the aim of Disability History Month is ‘to celebrate the achievements of Disabled people, to look at the disablism and oppression that we’ve been subjected to over time in all sorts of cultures and to argue for the full equality that we are entitled to under human rights legislation.’

The UK Disability History Month website goes on to share its founding document that explains the rationale, guiding principles, aims, organisational details and lists the founding supporting organisations.

With a key purpose of the month being to raise awareness of the unequal position of disabled people in society and to advocate disability equality; to develop an understanding of the historical roots of this inequality; to highlight the significance of disabled people’s struggles for equality and inclusion and the ‘social model’ of disability; to publicise and argue for the implementation of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities and the Equalities Act (2010).

The social model of disability was first developed by Mike Oliver in 1983. It was largely aimed at health and care professionals, as a way to articulate the idea that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference, and by changing environments and attitudes toward disability, it creates equality and offers people with disabilities more independence, choice and control.

In 2013 Mike published an article ‘The social model of disability: thirty years on’ in which he remarked that the model took on a life of its own, helping to develop and strengthen the disabled people’s movement by identifying and eradicating the disabling barriers which were used in the media to change the images of disability. This led to transport and public buildings becoming much more accessible and changes to legal systems to make it illegal to discriminate against disability. 

However, he comments most of the model ideas are just still ‘talked about,’ arguing that attitudes towards disability particularly within Government, charities and organisations still emphasise impairment and difference as a strategy necessary to help protect disabled people. With most political campaigns in defence of benefits and services for those with disabilities has forced disabled people back into the role of tragic victims of impairments and has involved others undertaking special pleading on their behalf. 

UK Disability History Month logo is the black triangle with a yellow background. This was used as representation of disabled people reclaiming a part of their history. An inverted black triangle was used as an identification badge in Nazi concentration camps to mark prisoners designated as unsociable which included people with disabilities. The triangle has been turned around and surrounded with a yellow circle.

Each year UKDHM has a theme, past themes have been :

This year UKDHM focuses on Disability, Health and Wellbeing, how this has historically not been addressed with most recent criticism of the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionally affecting the Disabled over the general public. An online launch was held on Thursday 17th November 2022. 

You are invited to join AbleOTUK throughout Disability History Month via shared content to inspire reflection on our social media platforms. We will also be presenting at the OT Show titled: “Ally-ship: it’s time to make it a meaningful occupation.” Please do engage and search for the hashtag #BeAnAbleOTUKally

Rachel is a Founding Member of AbleOTUK. You can follow Rachel and AbleOTUK online at:

Twitter – @OT_rach/@AbleOTUK

Instagram – @AbleOTs

Webpage – @OT_Rach – Exploring the Art of Occupation/AffinOT – AbleOTUK


Blog Post

Occupational Therapy Week 2022 – A Reflection #OTWeek #OTweek2022 #OTHacks – Was the theme right?

Acknowledgment – This blog post is a personal opinion piece of experiences, thoughts and ideas about my own lived experience. I acknowledge these will not be shared by all and respect others rights to have, different even conflicting ideas. . 

This website has an accessible feature, that allows different accessible formats by simply clicking on a button labelled ‘Accessibility Menu’ that appears in green on all pages. It will provide you with a number of options to change the appearance to meet your accessibility needs. 

This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

Occupational Therapy Week 2022 takes place every November and this year it was celebrated from 7th – 13th November. RCOT (Royal College of Occupational Therapists) take the lead on planning and developing the theme. This year they used the week to launched a new campaign to raise the profile of occupational therapy, called ‘Lift Up Your Everyday’

On the RCOT website they shared a ‘how-to’ guide and other resources to start creating and sharing your own OT Life Hacks for OT Week, and explained the reason behind the life hack idea.

The nation’s health is being impacted by crisis after crisis, from the pandemic to the worsening economic situation. Access to GPs and hospital appointments are hard to come by.

Occupational therapists help people to help themselves. You support people to do the things they want and have to do, to overcome challenges, such as completing everyday tasks or activities.

However, not everyone is able to access your support. All areas of health and social care are experiencing increased demand which is expected to rise.

That’s why, we’ve created ‘Lift Up Your Everyday’. This campaign is about giving people the knowledge to make changes that will have a positive impact on their lives – it’s always easier with a little help from an expert.  

We want you to share your OT Life Hacks and help people everywhere make positive changes to their lives.

By putting you front and centre, this campaign will promote occupational therapy in the minds of the public as health care experts whose advice they can trust, while growing their understanding of occupational therapy.

With your help, we want to empower people to help themselves by providing advice to enable them to keep doing what they love and need to do. The focus will be on small steps people can take which could make a big difference to their everyday lives – at home, at work, at school and in play.

RCOT website

On social media there was some criticism of this campaign in particularly the idea to share life hacks, with many understanding explaining that occupational therapy is a complex intervention that is often not understood and by explaining it in the simple form of life hacks did not do it justice.

An argument I agree with, however reflecting on the content that was shared during the week, there was some good ideas. Sometimes I feel that because occupational therapy is such a complex intervention, the profession gets its self tied up in knots. We do a lot of talking to each other about what occupational therapy is or isn’t and how best to explain it, that perhaps we miss opportunities to engage with wider communities, stakeholders and organisations?

Whilst it’s important to be a critical friend, no campaign will be perfect, and will easily explain the complexity of our profession. I’m keen that we use our language, but we need to meet people half way and the idea of life hacks is popular on social media platforms where most of the content of #OTweek is shared.

Having said that there is something to be said for connecting with people in other ways. In the past I have celebrated OT week, by running stalls in my workplace, in a local Art gallery. I have invited (with permission) local MP’s in to my work place to hear about occupational therapy. Written blogs on a week in the life of an Occupational Therapist, and also share content on my own social media platforms.

This year I was asked to be a guest speaker for Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust CPD events for their staff, which was a real privilege.

I guess what I’m trying to say is despite your feeling towards whatever the theme of the week is, the important thing, is to engage in the occupation of promoting occupational therapy during the official week, you can do this by really focusing on the theme and embracing its idea, or by simply sharing information about occupational therapy in which ever way you feel you can.

Here are the things I shared this week.

In conclusion the theme of this years #OTweek, it was not my favourite, but for me engaging in the occupation of promoting the power of occupational therapy is whats important.

Thank you for taking the time to read please leave comments below

Rachel Booth-Gardiner