Problematizing ‘Productive Citizenship’ Within Rehabilitation Services: Insights From Three Studies

Fadyl, JK
Teachman, G
Hamdani, Y
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Journal Article
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Taylor and Francis

Background: The idea that everyone should strive to be a ‘productive citizen’ is a dominant societal discourse. However, critiques highlight that common definitions of productive citizenship focus on forms of participation and contribution that many people experiencing disability find difficult or impossible to realize, resulting in marginalization. Since rehabilitation services strive for enablement, social participation, and inclusiveness, it is important to question whether these things are achieved within the realities of practice. Our aim was to do this by examining specific examples of how ‘productive citizenship’ appears in rehabilitation services. Methods: This article draws examples from three research studies in two countries to highlight instances in which narrow understandings of productive citizenship employed in rehabilitation services can have unintended marginalizing effects. Each example is presented as a vignette. Discussion: The vignettes help us reflect on marginalization at the level of individual, community and society that arises from narrow interpretations of ‘productive citizenship’ in rehabilitation services. They also provide clues as to how productive citizenship could be envisaged differently. We argue that rehabilitation services, because of their influence at critical junctures in peoples’ lives, could be an effective site of social change regarding how productive citizenship is understood in wider society.Implications for rehabilitation ‘Productive citizenship’, or the interpretation of which activities count as contributions to society, has a very restrictive definition within rehabilitation services. This restrictive definition is reflected in both policy and practices, and influences what counts as ‘legitimate’ rehabilitation and support, marginalizing options for a ‘good life’ that fall outside of it. Rehabilitation can be a site for social change; one way forward involves advocating for broader understandings of what counts as ‘productive citizenship’.

Disability and Rehabilitation, DOI: 10.1080/09638288.2019.1573935
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© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.