Media labeling versus the US disability community identity: a study of shifting cultural language

Author/Creator ORCID




Towson University. Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies


Citation of Original Publication

Haller B, Dorries B, Rahn J. Media labeling versus the US disability community identity: A study of shifting cultural language. Disability & Society [serial online]. January 2006;21(1):61-75. Available from: PsycINFO, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 13, 2018.



This study examines disability terminology to explore how the news media frame cultural representations of the disability community. More specifically, the paper examines the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act on journalist’s language choices about disability topics. A content analysis of news stories using disability terms in The Washington Post and The New York Times during the past decade was conducted. The paper illustrates that disability community identity continues to be formed, transformed and maintained through news media presentations of disability terminology. The paper argues that the US Disability Rights Movement had some success during the 1990s in putting forth language that advances its aims, though the study also suggests that some journalists continue to use terms that perpetuate limiting, narrow stereotypes about people with disabilities.