Barbara Gibson, PhD, MSc, BMR(PT)

Associate Professor, Department of Physical Therapy

University of Toronto
160-500 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1V7
Phone: 416-978-1819
Fax: 416-946-8562

Cross appointments: Senior Scientist, Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto

Department of Physical Therapy
Bloorview Research Institute


Barbara Gibson’s research uses theoretically informed mixed methods to examine the social and ethical dimensions of disability, rehabilitation and community care. Her work is particularly focused on the effects of technologies on the lives of disabled children and younger adults, and using critical social science approaches to examine the norms and assumptions embedded in health policies and practices. Her doctoral work examined the lives and identities of young men with Duchenne muscular dystrophy in relation to their socio-spatial environments and the discourses of disability, masculinity, and technology. Other areas of interest include examining how models of “consumer-directed care” are enacted in supportive housing environments; policy assumptions regarding what counts as an “adequate” home environment for younger disabled adults; and the social values that underpin children’s rehabilitation practices and mobility decisions. Her experience with qualitative methods includes use of participant generated video accounts (video ‘diaries”), qualitative interviews with clients, family members, clinicians, and decision makers. She is currently developing multiple visual and interview methods in research with disabled children. Her work is transdisciplinary combining methods and theories from bioethics, critical social theory and the health sciences.

Barbara received her Bachelor of Medical Rehabilitation in Physical Therapy from the University of Manitoba in 1986 and her PhD in the Collaborative Programs in Bioethics and Health Care Technology and Place at the Institute of Medical Science University of Toronto in 2006. She is a member of the Joint Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto. She is an Associate Editor of Physiotherapy Canada. 

Research Interests

  • Disability
  • Intersectionality of gender, disability, life stage and identities
  • Rehabilitation
  • Bioethics
  • Qualitative methods
  • Critical social science
  • Children and youth

Teaching Responsibilities

JRP 1000: Theory and Method for Qualitative Researchers: An Introduction, Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Sciences & Dalla Lana School Of Public Health, University of Toronto. Centre for Critical Qualitative Health Research Essentials of Qualitative Research (EQR) Course series. 

Ethics and Professionalism Cross-curricular Theme. Masters of Science in Physical Therapy program, Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of medicine, University of Toronto

Sample Publications


BE Gibson, B Mistry,  B Smith,  KK Yoshida,  D Abbott, S Lindsay, and Y Hamdani (accepted) Integration of Audio Diaries, Photography and Interviews in Research with Disabled Young Men.  International Journal of Qualitative Methods.
BE Gibson, B Secker, D Rolfe, F Wagner, B Parke, B Mistry (2012), Disability and Dignity-Enabling Home Environments. Social Science and Medicine 74(2): 211-219
Gibson BE, FA Carnevale G King (2012) ‘This is My Way’: Reimagining Disability, In/Dependence, and Interconnectedness of Persons and Assistive Technologies. Special Issue of Disability and Rehabilitation: Promoting Participation and Engagement in Rehabilitation. Vol. 34, No. 22, Pages 1894-1899
Gibson BE, G Teachman (2012) Critical Approaches in Physical Therapy Research:  Investigating the Symbolic Value of Walking. Special Issue of Physiotherapy Theory and Practice: Philosophy and Physiotherapy. 28(6) pp. 474-484
Gibson BE.., Brooks, D., Dematteo, D., King A. (2009) Consumer-directed personal assistance and ‘care’: perspectives of workers and ventilator-users, Disability and Society, 24 (3).
Gibson BE, Zitzelsberger H, McKeever P. (2009) “Futureless” persons: Shifting life expectancies and the vicissitudes of progressive illness, Sociology of Health and Illness, 31 (4). 
Gibson B.E., Young N.L., Upshur, R.E.G, McKeever, P. (2007) Men on the margin: A Bourdieusian examination of living into adulthood with muscular dystrophy, Social Science and Medicine. 65: 505–517
Gibson B.E., Upshur, R.E.G, Young N.L., McKeever, P. (2007) Disability, technology and place: social and ethical implications of long-term dependency on medical devices, Ethics, Place & Environment. 10(1): 7-28.
Gibson B.E. (2006) Disability, connectivity and transgressing the autonomous body. Journal of Medical Humanities. 27:187–196
Gibson, B.E. (2005). Co-producing video diaries: The presence of the “absent” researcher. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 4(4), Article 3.