Youth with disabilities' perspectives of the environment and participation: a qualitative meta-synthesis


Jessica M. Kramer, Department of Occupational Therapy, Boston University, 635 Commonwealth Avenue (SAR 512), Boston, MA 02215, USA. E-mail:


Meta-syntheses can enhance our knowledge regarding the impact of the environment on the participation of youth with disabilities and generate theoretical frameworks to inform policy and best practices. The purpose of this study was to describe school-aged youth with disabilities' perspectives regarding the impact of the environment and modifications on their participation. A meta-synthesis systematically integrates qualitative evidence from multiple studies. Six databases were searched and 1287 citations reviewed for inclusion by two independent raters; 15 qualitative articles were selected for inclusion. Two independent reviewers evaluated the quality of each study and coded the results section. Patterns between codes within and across articles were examined using a constant comparative approach. Environments may be more or less inclusive for youth with disabilities depending upon others' understanding of individual abilities and needs, youth involvement in decisions about accommodations, and quality of services and policies. Youth implemented strategies to negotiate environmental barriers and appraised the quality of their participation based on the extent to which they engaged alongside peers. This meta-synthesis generated a framework illustrating the relationship between the environment, modifications and participation, and provided a conceptualization of participation grounded in the lived experiences of youth with disabilities. Findings reveal gaps in current knowledge and highlight the importance of involving youth with disabilities in decision making.