(Re)questing community, a critical analysis of community in the discourse of disability rights and community based rehabilitation

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Lysack, Catherine Louise
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The purpose of this research is to demonstrate the penetration of community language and the power of the idea of community in the international discourse of disability rights and community based rehabilitation. A critical postmodern approach provides the overall theoretical framework for this research. Interviews with 38 key-informants, archival review of program and policy materials as well as participant-observation in the field over a 24 month period provide the data for the comparative case study. The research findings show that while both approaches to disability are committed to community based services and share a similar language of community, the kind of community to which they refer is not the same. For disability rights, based on the independent living philosophy, community implies identity and belonging. Community refers to a group of like-minded individuals focussed on the rights of people with disabilities. For community based rehabilitation however, community is geographical. Community refers to a physical locale. More importantly, and irrespective of the kind of community images generated, these two ideologies tend to attribute to the idea of community traditional features of community that may not accurately reflect the reality of present day communities, thus complicating our understanding of the fundamental processes of community participation and community organizing related to health. This analysis has shown community to be a complex and persuasive concept of great strategic utility within the international discourse on disability and beyond.