Communication & Medicine, Vol 10, No 2 (2013)

The multiple meanings of ‘disability’ in interviews with amputees

Emily Heavey
Issued Date: 11 Mar 2014


The link between having a lower-limb amputation and being disabled might seem self-evident. Indeed, the medical model of disability would suggest that lower-limb amputation causes disability, and that all lower-limb amputees are disabled people. Conversely, social models of disability would argue that limb loss does not determine disability, but that disabilities are rather caused by social structures and prejudices, while the interactional model suggests that there are both individual and social causes of disability. This paper draws on interviews with nine lower-limb amputees to address amputees’ own accounts of disability, in order to determine how (if at all) they make links between being an amputee and being disabled. The analysis shows that participants draw on various models of disability, as well as their own lived experiences, to construct subjective and diverse definitions of disability. Three interlinking definitions of disability recurred across the data: disability as a measure of personal (in)abilities; disability as a stigmatizing mask; and disability as an official status. Overall, disability was constructed as a complex, context-dependent label, which could not be reduced to any singular concept.

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DOI: 10.1558/cam.v10i2.129


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