Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Disability, Sri Lanka, Global South, Women, Disability Studies, Community-based Rehabilitation

Major Advisor

Laura Mauldin

Associate Advisor

Edna Brown

Associate Advisor

Kathryn Libal

Field of Study

Human Development and Family Studies


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The majority of people with disability (PWD) live in the global South. Over the last four decades, community-based rehabilitation (CBR) programs have dominated the way development programs operate and intercede in the lives of PWD, especially in low- and middle-income countries. This research uses participant observation and in-depth interviews to gather women’s experiences of disablement and CBR in Sri Lanka. Major findings detail ways CBR programs fail to address larger social inequities, specifically centered around ableism and sexism, and how these barriers are embedded in societies. Thus, these programs continue to target rehabilitation efforts at the level of the individual, without changing shared social circumstances of discrimination. Failure to respond to social inequalities continuing to marginalize groups of individuals is a global issue, permeating nations regardless of their level of resources. CBR programs are intended to be more empowering than segregated forms of rehabilitation, yet few studies incorporate the perspectives of PWDs. Centering experiences of women with disability (WWD) in CBR programs, this dissertation reveals glaring deficits in the CBR framework and argues perspectives of WWD are valid and important sources of knowledge needed to inform research and practice. Three main themes connect inadequate childhood education and current employment experiences, a myriad of social factors shaping well-being, and an increase in mobility through social movements. Results illuminate the need to refocus international development and intervention efforts away from individual deficit-based models toward systematic societal-level interventions informed and guided by the experiences of people the programs aim to serve.