TitleDisability models and attitudes among college students with and without disabilities.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsBogart, KR, Logan, SW, Hospodar, C, Woekel, E
JournalStigma and Health
Date Published08/2019

Unfavorable attitudes or stigma toward people with disabilities are invisible barriers that contribute to social inequities such as disparities in higher education enrollment and degree completion. Additionally, disability models, or underlying beliefs about whether disability is a problem inherent in individual biology (medical model) or a social construction (social model), are previously unexamined factors that may contribute to disability attitudes in higher education and beyond. We compared disability models and attitudes in college students with and without disabilities. Further, we examined the role of disability models and demographics in predicting attitudes about disability. Undergraduates at a public university (n = 1,762) completed survey measures of the variables described previously. As predicted, students with disabilities held significantly more favorable attitudes toward people with disabilities, lower medical model beliefs, and higher social model beliefs than students without disabilities. A regression revealed that lower medical model and greater social model beliefs predicted favorable attitudes toward people with disabilities above and beyond demographics. Analyses indicated that disability model beliefs completely mediated differences in attitudes toward disability between students with and without disability, controlling for demographic factors. This is the first study to demonstrate that people with disabilities have different models of disability compared with people without disabilities and that disability models predict disability attitudes. Results suggest that students with disabilities experience a cultural mismatch in higher education regarding disability models and attitudes. Increasing disability representation from a social model perspective in higher education may improve cultural fit and education outcomes.

Short TitleStigma and Health