Publication Title

American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting

Medical Subject Headings

Education, Professional, Education of Visually Disabled, Physical Therapy Specialty, Blindness, Low Vision, Disabled Persons, Students


Introduction: The perceptions of students, faculty, staff, and clinicians regarding blindness or visual impairment (BVI) and physical therapist practice were explored before, during, and after interactions with a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) student with BVI.

Review of Literature: Information is sparse about the prevalence of students with disabilities in DPT programs in the United States. Medical school programs that welcome students with disabilities report positive interactions with faculty and student peers.

Subjects: 36 (20 students, 11 faculty, 2 staff, and 3 clinical instructors)

Methods: A recent DPT graduate (pseudonym JM) with BVI classified as “near total blindness”, is now a licensed, full-time employee at an outpatient orthopedic clinic. We surveyed students, faculty, staff, and clinicians who interacted with JM as a DPT student, asking for perceptions about the education, clinical skills, and employment potential of a DPT student with BVI.

Results: An increase toward more favorable perceptions of individuals with BVI was exhibited for all 10 of the Likert scale questions, X2(2)=38.00 to 59.42, p< 0.001. Post hoc analysis demonstrated an increase between perceptions before and during interactions with JM for all questions, Z=-4.02 to -4.95, p< 0.001. Six of 10 questions exhibited an increase between perceptions during and after interacting with JM, Z=-2.53 to -3.50 p≤ 0.011. Qualitative analysis revealed three themes: accommodations, personal qualities, and setting with an overarching theme of an approbative shift in perceptions.

Discussion and Conclusion: The shift in perceptions about vision as essential for physical therapist practice is important and suggests that “essential functions” should be considered within the context of the individual’s characteristics and lived experiences. Reevaluation of DPT program applicant qualifications regarding vision may be warranted. Further, for clinical instructors, the benefits may outweigh the challenges of mentoring a student with accommodations for BVI.


Poster presented at the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) held February 23-25, 2023, in San Diego, CA