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The Interactions of Disability and Impairment

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Edmund Coleman-Fountain, Professor Janice McLaughlinORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Coleman-Fountain E, McLaughlin J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Social Theory and Health

Year: 2013

Volume: 11

Issue: 2

Pages: 133-150

Print publication date: 01/05/2013

Online publication date: 14/11/2012

Date deposited: 13/01/2014

ISSN (print): 1477-8211

ISSN (electronic): 1477-822X

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan


DOI: 10.1057/sth.2012.21


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