Well-being and occupational rights: An imperative for critical occupational therapy

Karen R.Whalley Hammell, Michael K. Iwama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Background: One of occupational therapy's core assumptions is that engagement in occupations influences well-being. Because occupational engagement is integral to human well-being, and because well-being is integral to human rights, this paper contends that the ability and opportunity to engage in occupations is an issue that concerns rights. Aims: To outline well-being and its centrality to human rights; to explore the relationships between well-being and occupation and between well-being and occupational rights; and to highlight the consequent imperative to engage in critical occupational therapy. Key issues: The World Federation of Occupational Therapists asserts that all people have the right to participate in a range of occupations that enable them to flourish, fulfil their potential, and experience satisfaction congruent with their culture and beliefs; and further asserts the human right to equitable access to participation in occupation. Conclusions: If occupational therapists are to take seriously their espoused commitment to enabling equitable access to participation in occupation, the inequitable conditions of people's lives will need to be addressed. Critical occupational therapy is a committed form of practice which acknowledges that well-being cannot be achieved solely by enhancing individuals' abilities, and that consequently endeavours also to address the conditions of people's lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-394
Number of pages10
JournalScandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Critical theory
  • Human rights
  • Theories of occupation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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