This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Disability Identity: The Impact of Disability Type for Individuals with Disabilities




Hall, Angela

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Special Education, Rehabilitation, Counseling


Disability identity development is a fairly recent and unique phenomenon in the academic literature that shapes an individual’s way of seeing him or herself, their bodies, their ways of interacting with the world and the way one adapts and responds to his or her disability. This phenomenon of disability identity development has thus far been studied primarily through qualitative methods that focus on the lived experience of individuals. Few quantitative studies exist that attempt to investigate external variables that account for or hinder the development of a person’s disability identity. This study attempts to replicate and extend the study by Darling and Heckert (2010) that investigates the impact age has on disability identity development but instead focuses on the variables of disability type: congenital versus acquired, and the impact disability type may have on one’s disability identity. By exploring these outside variables and the impact they may have on disability identity in a quantitative way, interventions and therapies could be more appropriately tailored and timed to allow for maximal benefits for the person with the disability. Rehabilitation professionals are on the frontlines in helping individuals with disabilities and are often the connection to the broader disability community. Through quantitative studies that examine external variables such as age, like the Darling and Heckert study (2010), and disability type, like this study, rehabilitation professionals should have a better understanding of the psychological process of disability identity to better meet the needs of their clients in a more positive and affirming way.