The interactions of disability and impairment

Edmund Coleman-Fountain, Janice McLaughlin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Theoretical work on disability is going through an expansive period, built on the growing recognition of disability studies as a discipline and out of the political and analytical push to bring disability into a prominent position within accounts of the intersecting social categories that shape people's lives. A current debate within critical disability studies is whether that study should include impairment and embodiment within its focus. This article argues it should and does so by drawing from symbolic interactionism and embodiment literatures in order to explore how differences in what bodies can do-defined as impairments-come to play a role in how people make sense of themselves through social interaction. We argue that these everyday interactions and the stories we tell within them and about them are important spaces and narratives through which impairment and disability are produced. Interactions and stories are significant both in how they are shaped by wider social norms, collective stories and institutional processes, and also how they at times can provide points of resistance and challenges to such norms, stories and institutions. Therefore, the significance of impairment and interaction is the role they play in both informing self-identity and also broader dynamics of power and inequality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-150
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Theory and Health
Issue number2
Early online date14 Nov 2012
Publication statusPublished - May 2013


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