Barbara Gibson

Physical Therapy


Rehabilitation Sciences Building
160-500 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario Canada M5G 1V7
Research Interests
Social and Cognitive Rehabilitation Sciences
Contact Faculty Member for more information

Barbara Gibson is a physical therapist and bioethicist whose work investigates how disability is understood and addressed in rehabilitation practice and delivery. Her research examines the intersections of social, cultural, and institutional practices in producing health, inclusion/exclusion, and identity with disabled children and young people. Dr. Gibson has examined key areas of health practices and policies including transitions to adulthood, independent living, and understanding relationships between mobility, identity, and social inclusion. She holds the Bloorview Children’s Hospital Foundation Chair in Childhood Disability Studies.  Dr. Gibson has led three books aimed at transforming rehabilitation practices, Rethinking Rehabilitation Theory, Practice, Rehabilitation: A Post-critical Approach, and Manipulating Practices:  A Critical Physiotherapy Reader. She is a co-founder of the international Critical Physiotherapy Network.

Research Synopsis

My research and scholarship focus on transforming how disability is understood and addressed in rehabilitation within two primary themes:

1) Social and Ethical Dimensions of Children’s and Rehabilitation. My research program investigates how social, cultural, and institutional practices intersect in producing health, inclusion/exclusion, and identity of (and with) disabled children and youth. The aim is to improve the wellbeing of disabled young people through a critical interrogation of key principles (e.g. disability, normality, in/dependence) underpinning children’s rehabilitation and societal constructions of disability. Moreover, the work is oriented to developing and researching real world changes in how disability is understood, taught, researched, and addressed in rehabilitation. My work is interdisciplinary and intersectional; drawing upon sociological studies of health, rehabilitation, bioethics, and critical disability studies.

2) Critical Rehabilitation Studies. My work in this area focuses on expanding the philosophical foundations of rehabilitation and physical therapy through international collaborations targeted to the development of ‘critical’ scholarship.

Recent Publications

  1. Gibson B.E., Terry G., Setchell J., Bright F.A.S., Cummins C., Kayes N.M. The micro-politics of caring: Tinkering with person-centred rehabilitation. Disability & Rehabilitation Special Issue: Ultrabilitation. 2019 in press.
  2. Setchell, J., Nicholls, D., Gibson B.E., Objecting: Multiplicity and the practice of physiotherapy. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine. 2018 Jan 22 (2):165-184
  3. Abrams T, Gibson BE. Putting Gino’s Lesson to Work: Actor-Network Theory, Enacted Humanity, and Rehabilitation. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine. 2017 Jul 21(4): 425-440.
  4. Gibson BE, King G, *Teachman G, Mistry B, *Hamdani Y. Assembling Activity/Setting Participation with Disabled Young People. Sociology of Health & Illness. 2017 May;39(4):497-512.
  5. Gibson, BE. Rehabilitation: A post-critical approach. Boca Raton (United States): CRC Press; 2016. Principal Author

Honours & Awards

  • 2018 | Sustained Excellence in Graduate Supervision and Mentorship Award - Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
  • 2016 | Induction into The College of New Scholars - Artists and Scientists of The Royal Society of Canada
  • 2015 | Norington Medal - Australasian Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine