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Reading: Empowerment in Community-based Rehabilitation and Disability-inclusive Development


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Original Research Articles

Empowerment in Community-based Rehabilitation and Disability-inclusive Development


Pim Kuipers

Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, AU
About Pim

Dr. Pim Kuipers is Principal Research Fellow at the Centre for Functioning and Health Research, Queensland Health, and Associate Professor, Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Australia. With degrees in psychology and rehabilitation, he has worked as a psychologist in disability and rehabilitation services for a number of years.  He has conducted and led research in areas of health service delivery, systematic synthesis of qualitative reports, rural and remote primary health care, indigenous health, community-based rehabilitation, and disability services, specifically for people with brain injuries and spinal cord injuries.

Dr. Kuipers has worked as a disability services project advisor in the Lao People's Democratic Republic, and has also advised and evaluated numerous CBR projects in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Pakistan. His research interests include the application of qualitative and mixed methods research, community integration after injury, family and patient engagement in health care, allied health practice, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), and particularly disability and development issues in developing countries.

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Purpose: This paper seeks to contribute to discussion on the understanding and measurement of empowerment of people with disabilities in developing countries. A novel, text analysis approach was used to depict the way in which empowerment is characterised in conventional measures in Western settings. This was then compared with depictions and analyses of the way in which empowerment is characterised in documents that have more relevance to developing countries.

Method: First, computer-based content and concept analysis was applied to three key empowerment measures. This was compared with analysis of responses to a recent online survey of empowerment conducted by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA). Visual representations in the form of “word clouds” were generated to depict key concepts within each data source. Second, to provide specific detail regarding how empowerment has been described in documents which relate to developing countries, more detailed computer-assisted lexical analysis was performed on the text of responses to the UN-DESA survey, and on the text of the Empowerment component of the CBR Guidelines.

Results: Initial “word clouds” illustrated considerable discrepancy between concepts inherent in the three most relevant empowerment measures when compared with responses to the UN-DESA survey relating to empowerment in a development context.  Subsequent lexical analysis depicted greater specificity and ranked the concepts associated with empowerment in key disability and development-related documents.

Conclusions: Conventional Western measures of individual empowerment may not adequately encompass the broader social, economic and community orientation of empowerment as described in documents from disability and development circles. Further research is required to substantiate these novel and speculative indications.

How to Cite: Kuipers, P., 2014. Empowerment in Community-based Rehabilitation and Disability-inclusive Development. Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development, 24(4), pp.24–42. DOI:
Published on 13 Feb 2014.


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