Factors Associated With Educational Completion for Students With Physical Disabilities in Physical Therapist Programs

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Introduction. Few studies have investigated the specific factors associated with educational completion, or graduation, for students with physical disabilities (SWPD) in physical therapist programs. Review of Literature. Disability diversity has been at the forefront in nursing and medicine over the past several years with tangible action and research initiatives identified. Similar calls have been made in the physical therapy profession; however, research is needed to frame the scope of the topic. The purpose of this study was to explore the institutional context of where and how education for SWPD occurs and to identify the academic factors associated with educational completion for SWPD in physical therapist programs. Subjects. Accredited physical therapist programs in the United States with a history of graduating at least one cohort were invited to participate in a survey. Faculty with experiences working with SWPD were invited for interviews. Methods. A conceptual framework was developed based on known educational scholars and on theories specific to the disability community. From the framework, a one-phase convergent mixed-methods study was conducted. Data were collected, analyzed separately, and integrated. Results. Institutions with technical standards (TS) updated in the past 5 years were more likely to have admitted SWPD (P = .027). Statistically significant academic factors associated with successful completion of SWPD in physical therapist programs included private institutions over public, having recently updated TS, and having available faculty training on accommodations. Supports including having adaptable perspectives and using multistakeholder collaboration related to SWPD were identified during qualitative analysis. Barriers were grouped as roadblocks and having a fixed mindset. Discussion/Conclusion. These findings can be applied across physical therapist programs with a goal to improve disability diversity in the profession. Implications for other health professional programs, ongoing research opportunities, and practice recommendations are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-18
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Therapy Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Academy of Physical Therapy Education, APTA.


  • Disability
  • Higher education
  • Physical therapy
  • Technical standards


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