“We don’t have a box”: Understanding Hidden Disability Identity Utilizing Narrative Research Methodology

Aimee Valeras


A "hidden disability," one unapparent to outside observers, defies the outward social construction of disability. A narrative research approach is used to understand the process of personal identification (or lack thereof) with being "disabled." Self-narratives were elicited from three men and three women, ranging in age from 21 to 53 years who have had a hidden physical disability since before age thirteen. The conditions represented are: Juvenile Diabetes, Asthma, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, Epilepsy, Muscular Dystrophy, and Celiac Disease.

While persons with hidden disabilities are afforded a sense of anonymity, they must contend with different challenges, including learning strategic self-disclosure and impression management; when to disclose and make disability visible and when to "pass" and give society the impression of "able-bodiedness." The choice, to be or not to be disabled, has important implications for the way we conceptualize disability, and the concept of identity as a whole.

Full Text:


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v30i3/4.1267

Copyright (c) 2010 Aimee Valeras

Volume 1 through Volume 20, no. 3 of Disability Studies Quarterly is archived on the Knowledge Bank site; Volume 20, no. 4 through the present can be found on this site under Archives.

Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated. 

Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.

If you encounter problems with the site or have comments to offer, including any access difficulty due to incompatibility with adaptive technology, please contact libkbhelp@lists.osu.edu.

ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)