Ema Loja

The Impact of Dis/Abl(e)ism on Disabled People in Portugal: Fado, Citizenship and the Embodied Self


Ph.D in Psychology 
Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, University of Porto, Portugal


Isabel Menezes




October 12, 2012


Curriculum Vitae



An understanding of disability and the perspective of disabled people in Portugal has hardly yet been reached, mainly due to the lack of a field of disability studies. This dissertation aims to extend the study of physical disability in Portugal within a sociopolitical perspective by focusing on the understanding of the impact of dis/abl(e)ism on disabled people's lives, specifically their quality of life, embodiment and identity.

The research was designed within sociopolitical, ableism and embodiment paradigms and consists of three studies that combined qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Each study is included in three scientific articles that were published or accepted for publication. Besides the papers, a proposal for change in regard to disability provided by participants' suggestions is presented.

The first paper includes a qualitative study with six leaders of disability associations and attempts to get insights from these experts about disability in regard to the Portuguese context. The second paper contains a quantitative study on quality of life and discrimination with 217 disabled people. Validation of the QoL.Q (Schalock & Keith, 1993) and the Minorities' Rights Support Scale (Nata & Menezes, 2007) was carried out with CFA procedure. Then descriptive and correlational statistical procedures permitted the analysis of quality of life in disability and the impact of discrimination. The third paper comprises a qualitative study with seven people with visible physical impairments. The impact of and resistance to ableist discourses about impaired bodies and the relation of embodiment with identity are analyzed within embodiment theory and the concepts of ableism (Campbell, 2001) and physical capital (Bourdieu, 1990).

Findings suggest that dis/abl(e)ism has a profound impact on disabled people's lives, embodiment and identity. The prevalence of a tragic vicious cycle paradigm is challenged by a minor group of disabled people through a rights awareness-based triad of factors composed by financial and personal resources and social support system. Beyond that, disabled people manifest embodied forms of resistance that contradict the ableist normativities that undermine their physical capital and that impact on the recognition of a disability identity.