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Keywords:

  • disability models;
  • rehabilitation theory;
  • theoretical models

A goal of rehabilitation nursing is to advance the care of persons with chronic disabling conditions by minimizing disability. There are two distinct perspectives in the literature about how to conceptualize disability. Definitions and models of disability that inform rehabilitation nursing practice are based on a functionalist perspective of illness and locate disability as a problem of individual functioning. Alternatively, there are definitions and models that have evolved from the civil rights and social justice perspectives, and that locate the problem of disability within a disabling society. Recent attempts to integrate these two perspectives are based on earlier rehabilitation models and the functionalist assumptions remain. Rehabilitation nursing research and practice based on either of these two perspectives is fragmented and incomplete. To know how to define and approach disability-related issues, it is important to understand how people living with disability perceive its influences on their lives.