Bookmark and Share

Disability and Community Participation Research

Dr. Dashner mentors students interested in Disability and Community Participation Research. Her work further develops and tests subjective and objective measures of the quality of participation in communities; implements initiatives to improve community receptivity for people with disabilities; develops person-specific interventions to increase community participation by people with mobility, vision and hearing limitations; studies characteristics and supports needed of people with disabilities who work; and trains paid and unpaid personal assistance recipients and providers.

General Description of Student Activities

Students may have the opportunity to participate in client interviews, focus groups, survey administration by phone, in-person assessments, data entry, data analysis, literature reviews and writing journal articles. They will orally present their work. Students may work with other members of the group to learn research skills. Students should be comfortable using a personal computer and willing to learn software necessary for data entry and analysis. Time commitment will be in line with the Program in Occupational Therapy expectations, but availability will be coordinated with the student’s class schedule. Some of the scholarly activities may be conducted at Paraquad’s Health and Wellness Center, which is located at 5200 Berthold Ave. or at various community sites. Personal transportation is helpful, but not required.

Examples of Projects

Students learn about ongoing research projects before selecting a topic that they develop for their master’s or doctoral project. Projects currently being conducted include:

  • Measuring Community Participation. Subjective measures of community participation are used to examine how and where people with mobility, vision and hearing limitations participate.
  • Measuring the Usability of Community Buildings. An objective community site assessment tool we developed (Community Health Environment Checklist – CHEC) is being used to collect data in St. Louis and across the country. The assessments are then entered into Google maps ( to inform people with disabilities about the usability of buildings in the community.
  • Employed People with Disabilities. This project studies employed people with mobility, vision or hearing limitations.
  • A National Science Foundation project is providing some funds to establish a program to bring people who have had a spinal cord injury into careers in science.
  • Informal/Unpaid Personal Assistance Training. This project is determining the effects of an informal personal assistance training program.
  • Parenting with Disabilities. Analyzing existing data to examine and further understand participation of parents with disabilities.


Jessica Dashner, OTD, OTR/L
Instructor in Occupational Therapy and Neurology
Phone: 314-286-1648

US News Report, Best Grad Schools