• adolescents with disabilities;
  • community-based rehabilitation;
  • rehabilitation in India;
  • critical ethnography


This study aimed to understand how adolescents with disabilities can assume greater control over their rehabilitation and participation within a community-based rehabilitation programme in the urban slums of North India. A critical ethnographical approach using multiple qualitative and participatory data collection methods was adopted. Fieldwork was conducted from January to May 2005 and October 2006 to March 2007 with 21 adolescents with and 11 adolescents without disabilities (aged 12 to 18 years), and 10 community-based rehabilitation staff members. A conceptual framework called the ‘Adolescent Group Empowerment Pyramid’ was developed. Four themes informed the framework: group participation, group demonstration, group recognition and the socio-cultural environment's interaction with disability. Group empowerment, achieved through group-centred occupations, encourages adolescents to work together to address their rehabilitation challenges and agendas. Three external support factors and 10 areas for nurturing the group empowerment process also emerged. A limitation of this study is the lack of data on how the familial and local political and economic environment impact adolescents' ability to make decisions about their rehabilitation. Further research might explore group occupations and occupational recognition, and what this means for social change and the personal and collective growth of adolescents in underserviced communities. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.