Aug 09 2023

Promoting occupational justice: The role of occupational therapists in fostering inclusion and well-being


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Occupational justice refers to the idea that every individual has the right to engage in meaningful and purposeful occupations to achieve a sense of well-being and fulfillment in life. It recognizes the importance of occupations, such as work, leisure activities, self-care, and social participation, in promoting physical and mental health. Occupational therapists play a crucial role in advocating for and influencing aspects relevant to occupational justice, as they work to ensure that individuals have equal access and opportunities to engage in occupations that are meaningful to them. This article will explore the concept of occupational justice and will discuss the role of occupational therapists in advocating and influencing aspects relevant to it.


Promoting equality through occupational justice


Occupational justice is a fundamental concept rooted in the principles of social justice, fairness, and equality. It sheds light on the existing disparities and inequalities in society concerning individuals' access to and participation in occupations that hold significance in their lives. These disparities may arise due to various factors, such as differences in socioeconomic status, disabilities, gender, race, or age. The essence of occupational justice lies in its mission to address these inequalities and to strive toward creating a more just, inclusive, and supportive society. It recognizes that meaningful and purposeful engagement in various occupations is crucial for promoting individuals' overall well-being and fulfillment.


Occupational therapists play a significant role as advocates for occupational justice. As healthcare professionals specializing in occupational therapy, they are uniquely positioned to work closely with individuals facing barriers in engaging meaningfully in occupations. Their holistic approach goes beyond addressing an individual's physical and mental health, as they consider their personal goals, values, and interests. Occupational therapists understand the central role that occupations play in shaping an individual's identity and overall well-being. Therefore, their primary focus is to enable their clients to participate in activities that are personally meaningful and purposeful to them. By recognizing the profound impact of occupations on an individual's quality of life, occupational therapists become champions of occupational justice, striving to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities to pursue occupations that contribute to their sense of fulfillment and happiness.


Empowering clients toward meaningful occupations


Occupational therapists are uniquely positioned to advocate for occupational justice as they work closely with individuals who may face barriers in engaging in meaningful occupations. Through their holistic approach, occupational therapists consider not only an individual’s physical and mental health but also their personal goals, values, and interests. They understand that occupations are central to an individual’s identity and well-being and will strive to enable their clients to engage in activities that are meaningful and purposeful to them.


For those aspiring to become occupational therapists, there are several reasons why this career path is appealing. Top institutes such as American International College can answer the burning question of prospective students: why become an occupational therapist? AIC outlines the valuable reasons to pursue their OT doctorate programs, especially the online Post-Professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate (Post-Professional OTD) degree. This program at American International College is designed for engaged occupational therapists like you with a master's degree who want to continue to work while earning a doctorate. 


Promoting inclusive workforce participation


One aspect of occupational justice that occupational therapists advocate for is access to and inclusion in the workforce. Employment is a fundamental occupation that provides individuals with financial stability, a sense of purpose, and social connections. However, certain populations, such as individuals with disabilities, may face barriers in accessing and maintaining employment. Occupational therapists work with these individuals to identify their strengths, address any barriers they may face, and provide support to enhance their job skills and abilities. They also collaborate with employers to create inclusive work environments and promote the value of diversity in the workforce.


Facilitating inclusive engagement and well-being


In addition to employment, occupational therapists also advocate for equal access to education, leisure activities, and social participation. They work with any individuals, from children to older adults, to ensure that they have opportunities to engage in activities that promote their overall well-being. For example, occupational therapists may collaborate with schools to develop inclusive programming and accommodations for students with disabilities. They may also work with older adults to promote active aging and provide strategies to overcome barriers in social participation.


Driving systemic change for occupational justice

Occupational therapists can also advocate for policy changes and influence decision-making processes at various levels, from individual to community to national. They may work with organizations, government agencies, and policymakers to raise awareness about the importance of occupational justice and the need for systemic changes. They may participate in public advocacy campaigns, contribute to research and evidence-based practice, and engage in community development projects to promote occupational justice.


Fostering autonomy and empowerment through self-advocacy

Furthermore, occupational therapists play a crucial role in empowering individuals to advocate for themselves. They work collaboratively with their clients to identify and address barriers, develop self-advocacy skills, and access resources and support systems within their communities. By fostering self-advocacy, occupational therapists enable individuals to become active participants in decision-making processes that affect their lives, promoting their autonomy and empowerment.


Promoting a just and equitable society through occupational justice

Occupational justice is a concept that recognizes the importance of engaging in meaningful occupations for promoting well-being and fulfillment. Occupational therapists play a significant role in advocating for and influencing aspects relevant to occupational justice. They work to address disparities and inequalities in access to and participation in occupations by collaborating with individuals, organizations, and policymakers. Occupational therapists strive to create inclusive environments and enable individuals to engage in activities that are meaningful and purposeful to them. Through their work, they contribute to the promotion of a more just and equitable society where all individuals have equal opportunities to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives through engagement in occupations.

Tags: fulfillment and happiness