Around the world, stigmatization associated with disability poses persistent challenges to individuals’ social interactions and their experience of the “self”. This qualitative study examines how youth have experienced their own disabilities and self as they transition into adulthood and navigate stigmatization in their everyday interactions with others in India. Stigmatization associated with disability in India is reinforced by its highly structured, hierarchical social systems, including the caste system. Examining the experiences of stigmatization and self by people with disabilities in India illuminates the challenges arising from the intersection of disability and social status. We conducted semi-structured individual interviews with 25 youth and adults with visual, hearing, or mobility disabilities. Cross-case analyses of 25 interviews revealed that participants consistently described different experiences of self and disability in various social contexts, including home, school, and work. Participants described how they adjusted their presentations of “self” in social interactions relative to others’ displays of any stigmatization. We also present comparative case study analyses to contextualize participants’ experiences by illustrating how they adjust their presentations of self in everyday social interactions focusing on four participants who vary in gender, age of onset and type of disability, and family income. The experiences of individuals with disabilities in India provide scholars and professionals around the world with insights into expanding theories of disability and self to include more fully the social construction of disability and intersectionality with other social positions such as social class and gender, and developing stigma-sensitive approaches to supporting people with disabilities.
- Developmental and social contexts