Date of Conferral





Social Work


Barbara Benoliel


In this qualitative study, the social construct of community citizenship as perceived in the worldviews of adults with developmental disabilities living in a large eastern city was explored. While authors report government-sponsored institutionalization and custodial care is no longer as common, the voices of people with developmental disabilities are still to be heard on what they think about being participating members of their communities rather than segregated as they once were. This study provided a group of adults with developmental disabilities an opportunity to help others better understand their thoughts about belonging. A combined case study and photovoice research approach was used in the study. Five adult participants were supplied with cameras with which to take photographs of what they felt best represented their interpretation of belonging and community citizenship. Each was later interviewed to provide descriptions of their pictures. The data were then evaluated with the assistance of qualitative analysis software to determine themes. The findings indicated the participants placed high personal value on gainful employment and expressions of respect from others. In keeping with Maslow's hierarchy of needs thesis as well as the self-actualization and self-determination theories, a sense of belonging is vital to emotional health and well-being. The results of this study contribute to social change by affirming what participants communicated "an inclusive community is one that promotes and provides equitable opportunities for employment, respect, decision-making, and participation."