The influence of written disabling, nondisabling, and unaltered disability descriptors on attitudes toward persons with a disability among persons with and without a head injury

Wm Drew Gouvier, Brian Betz, Judith R. O'Jile, Laurie M. Ryan, Judith Parks-Levy, Amy Groves, Robert C. Coon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Using a between-subjects design, 208 college students completed three versions of the Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons Scale (ATDP) to determine whether the language used to describe persons with a disability would affect respondents' scores. The sample included individuals who had previously sustained a head injury with at least momentary loss of consciousness (N = 59), students who had not experienced a head injury but who had lived with a relative who had (N = 44), and students who had not experienced a head injury and who did not have a relative who had experienced a head injury (N = 105). We randomly assigned different versions of the ATDP, using the original unaltered, disabling, or nondisabling descriptors, to paticipants who completed the forms they received. The descriptors used were 'disabled person' (original descriptor), 'person with a disability' (nondisabling descriptor), and 'the disabled' (disabling descriptor). No significant differences in ATDP scores were evident for the effects of group or form. The only significant finding was a main effect for gender, indicating that more favorable attitudes were expressed by female respondents than by male respondents. These results have significant implications with regard to research on disabling language and the importance of process and content variables in defining disabling language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-106
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Rehabilitation and Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1997



  • Attitudes
  • College students
  • Disability
  • Head injury
  • Language

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