Framing disability among young adults with disabilities and non-disabled young adults: An exploratory study

Michal Soffer, Fiona Chew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


To explore how young adults frame disability and to compare the meanings of disability between persons with and without disabilities. Method: Snow ball sampling was used to recruit the participants. The sample comprised of 14 young adults from Upstate New York area; nine were non-disabled, five had a physical disability. Data were collected by semi-structured interviews. Qualitative content analysis was used to analyze the data. Results: Five themes emerged from the analysis: disability as a deviation from "the norm", disability as inability, disability as something one needs to overcome, the role of the environment in disability, and disability as a negative phenomenon. The findings suggest that persons with disabilities hold somewhat different meanings of disability compared with non-disabled persons. Conclusions: While the biomedical frame of disability was somewhat challenged, disability is mainly understood via a biomedical lens. Disability should be framed as form of human diversity, not as a mark of Cain.Implications for RehabilitationThe ways through which disability is framed-as a medical issue or a social one-influences social attitudes and behaviors toward persons with disabilities as well as the shaping of disability policies and services. These, in turn, effect the well-being and impact the lives of persons with disabilities.In a relatively small sample which comprised of young adults with disabilities and non-disabled young adults, this study shows that while medical definitions of disability are somewhat contested, the medical definition of disability seems to prevail.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-178
Number of pages8
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Biomedical model of disability
  • Social model of disability
  • Young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation


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