Does Language Type Affect Perceptions of Disability Images? An Experimental Study

Stuart B. Kamenetsky, Adam S. Sadowski


The present experimental study examined the impact of language type on perception of disability images with text captions. 204 disability naïve undergraduate students viewed disability images containing one of six disability language captions: disability-first, defiant self-naming, impairment, negative, person-first, and apologetic naming. Participants completed measures of identification, emotion, willingness to help, willingness to include, and perceptions of capabilities and rights. Person-first and apologetic naming did not result in more positive perceptions of disability. Rather, defiant self-naming evoked the most positive emotions and identification, and greater perceived capabilities and willingness to include whereas negative language evoked the most negative perceptions of images. Results suggest that the elimination of negative language and the use of empowering defiant self-naming by people with disabilities, rather than a focus on using person-first and apologetic naming, may be more effective in reducing negative disability stereotypes.

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