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A model for developing disability confidence

PURPOSE: Many clinicians, educators, and employers lack disability confidence which can affect their interactions with, and inclusion of people with disabilities. Our objective was to explore how disability confidence developed among youth who volunteered with children who have a disability. METHODS: We conducted 30 in-depth interviews (16 without a disability, 14 with disabilities), with youth aged 15-25. We analyzed our data using an interpretive, qualitative, thematic approach. RESULTS: We identified four main themes that led to the progression of disability confidence including: (1) disability discomfort referring to lacking knowledge about disability and experiencing unease around people with disabilities; (2) reaching beyond comfort zone” where participants increased their understanding of disability and became sensitized to difference; (3) “broadened perspectives” where youth gained exposure to people with disabilities and challenged common misperceptions and stereotypes; and (4) “disability confidence” which includes having knowledge of people with disabilities inclusive and positive attitudes towards them. CONCLUSIONS: Volunteering is one way that can help to develop disability confidence. Youth with and without disabilities both reported a similar process of developing disability confidence; however there were nuances between the two groups. Implications for Rehabilitation The development of disability confidence is important for enhancing the social inclusion of people with disabilities. Volunteering with people who have a disability or a disability different from their own can help to develop disability confidence which involves positive attitudes empathy and appropriate communication skills. Clinicians educators and employers should consider promoting working with disabled people through such avenues as volunteering or service learning to gain disability confidence.