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Empowerment, Participation & Social Integration Unit

Building on the ICF’s conceptual framework, the unit’s aim is to comprehensively understand how environmental and personal factors impact on the social integration and participation of persons with disabilities in general, and with SCI in particular.

At the micro-level and in the area of empowerment and personal factors the specific objective is to examine the role of psychosocial resources and strengths of individuals (e.g. self-efficacy, optimism, purpose in life, social skills) in relation to coping and adjustment, well-being and quality of life, health and participation across the life span. Our research focuses on the subjective experience and the affected individuals’ own perspective. While disability is often considered from a deficit perspective, we take a resource-oriented approach. Thereby, we facilitate person-centeredness and empowerment in rehabilitation care as well as secondary prevention. Our research broadens the understanding of living with an SCI and also opens up new possibilities for action and interventions.

At the macro-level and in the domain of participation and the social environment the aim is to contribute to the inclusion of persons with SCI, in particular with regard to their labour market participation. Gainful employment is a particularly important dimension of social inclusion as it generates income and can contribute to one’s self-fulfilment as well as sense of self-esteem. It is, therefore, of paramount importance to gain a better understanding of the work and employment situation faced by persons with disabilities. Our research focuses on the various determinants and consequences of work reintegration of persons with SCI.

In so doing, our analyses span the entire life course since injury, starting from vocational rehabilitation at the clinic to return to work in the community to eventual retirement. The ultimate goal of the research program is to enable persons with SCI to engage in suitable long-term employment.

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