Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

M. Abbey Glenn OTD, OTR/L, CBIS

Second Advisor

Adam Story OTD, OTR/L, PT, DPT, MTC


Background: Disability identity is a concept that can occur when one focuses their identity and purpose on their disability. This can be positive or negative and have direct effects on one’s quality of life. Several studies have found that being in the wilderness has improved one’s self-perception, community, and goals for the future. This project aims to measure, after going on a 12-day rafting trip in the Grand Canyon, if there is any change on one’s disability identity, as well as to analyze accessibility for those with physical disabilities.

Method: Six participants with physical disabilities were included. All participants were Caucasian and had a college degree. Participants went on a 12-day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. They completed a pre-trip survey one week prior to the trip, a post-trip survey one week after, a three month follow up survey, and a six month follow up survey to measure their disability identity using the Gibson Disability Identity Development Scale. Daily informal interviews were also completed to assess accessibility with this trip and wilderness.

Results: While there were trends found, the data was not statistically significant. There was a slight decrease in their scores, showing a negative shift in their disability identity immediately following the trip. However, at the three month follow up survey, all participants who completed the baseline and three-month survey showed a slight increase in their disability identity score, representing a positive shift in their disability identity. Accessibility issues included the restroom (groover), boat access, campsite mobility, and the safari chairs used on this trip.

Conclusion: Further research is warranted for individuals who are newly diagnosed or have a more negative disability identity, offering more room for progress. Combining the wilderness and occupational therapy offers the potential to improve not only functional skills but their identity and self-perception, which could contribute to a greater quality of life.

Bauer.pdf (5431 kB)