“But you don’t look disabled” - Invisible disabilities, disclosure and being an ‘insider’ in disability research and ‘other’ in the disability movement and academia

Griffiths, Elisabeth (2020) “But you don’t look disabled” - Invisible disabilities, disclosure and being an ‘insider’ in disability research and ‘other’ in the disability movement and academia. In: Ableism in Academia: Theorising Experiences of Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses in Higher Education. University College London, London, pp. 124-142. ISBN 9781787354975, 9781787354999, 9781787354982, 9781787355002, 9781787355019

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.14324/111.9781787354975


Hidden or non-visible disabilities, disabilities that are not readily seen or immediately obvious to others, raise many issues about the presentation of self in everyday life (Goffman, 1959), but particularly so for the disabled academic and disability law scholar undertaking disability research. I have been an academic and a lawyer for over 20 years (becoming chronically ill in 2007) and I am completing a Professional Doctorate using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to explore the lived experience of disabled students navigating their emerging graduate identities (Holmes, 2015) and ‘possible selves’ (Markus and Nurius, 1986). The research process has led me to question, not only my own identity as someone whose disability consciousness has grown during the process, but also my position in academia, in the disability movement and as a practitioner. This personal narrative of my own position as a disability law scholar with a non-visible disability has led me to question the hyper-paced pursuit of excellence in academia and to pursue the acknowledgement of difference and diversity within the disability movement. The research has required me to negotiate access to insider accounts and relate to and reflect on the experiences of the participants (Smith et.al, 2009) and as a result, my own experiences in academia. As a disability researcher and disability law scholar with a non-visible disability, I am presented with dilemmas of identity, disclosure and insider status. My legal training also demands empathy but impartiality. I could ‘pass’ as ‘normal’ or ‘able’ to my participants and, as Goffman suggests, the rewards of being or appearing ‘normal’ are such that most people who are in such a position will choose to do so at some point (Goffman, 1963).

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: B900 Others in Subjects allied to Medicine
X300 Academic studies in Education
X900 Others in Education
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Northumbria Law School
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2020 09:51
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 08:30
URI: https://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/42744

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