Background: The idea that everyone should strive to be a ‘productive citizen’ is a dominant societal discourse. However, critiques highlight that common definitions of productive citizenship focus on forms of participation and contribution that many people experiencing disability find difficult or impossible to realize, resulting in marginalization. Since rehabilitation services strive for enablement, social participation, and inclusiveness, it is important to question whether these things are achieved within the realities of practice. Our aim was to do this by examining specific examples of how ‘productive citizenship’ appears in rehabilitation services.
Methods: This article draws examples from three research studies in two countries to highlight instances in which narrow understandings of productive citizenship employed in rehabilitation services can have unintended marginalizing effects. Each example is presented as a vignette.
Discussion: The vignettes help us reflect on marginalization at the level of individual, community and society that arises from narrow interpretations of ‘productive citizenship’ in rehabilitation services. They also provide clues as to how productive citizenship could be envisaged differently. We argue that rehabilitation services, because of their influence at critical junctures in peoples’ lives, could be an effective site of social change regarding how productive citizenship is understood in wider society.