Background/objective: To report an evidence-based review of participation instruments that have been used in spinal cord injury (SCI) clinical practice and research.
Methods: Rehabilitation literature was searched for instruments used by at least 2 independent SCI researchers since 2000. Each instrument was reviewed by 2 committee members. One person reviewed the scale and documented the level of use and psychometric properties. The second committee member verified the values and made suggestions for changes.
Results: Three instruments met the review criteria: Craig Handicap Assessment and Reporting Technique (CHART), Assessment of Life Habits (LIFE-H), and the Impact on Participation and Autonomy (IPA). Each instrument incorporates different perspectives in the measurement of participation. The LIFE-H uses a qualitative approach, whereas the CHART adopts a quantitative approach; both are based on societal norms of participation. In contrast, the IPA integrates individual choice and control in defining participation. CHART is the most widely used instrument, although its development predates the development of the ICF. The IPA is a relatively new instrument, and its psychometric properties have only recently published.
Conclusions: Continuing research is needed to develop conceptually and psychometric valid measures of participation for use with people with SCI. Priorities include understanding the relationship between objective and subjective indicators of participation, describing the dimensions of participation, and identifying appropriate measurement models and psychometric approaches to evaluate the nonhierarchical character of participation. Researchers and clinicians should be aware of the strengths and limitations of existing measures to make informed decisions about appropriate instruments.