This study presents three perspectives about how the life experience of individuals with disabilities is profoundly affected by the attitudes of others. A first perspective is presented by three individuals who had sustained significant, traumatic injuries. They each shared with me their experiences with acceptance and the attitudes of others. A second perspective comes from me, as the author of this article. As a person with a virtually lifelong disability, I have interpreted those experiences through a lens mediated by my own relationship to disability. These interpretations have informed a third perspective, that of a fictional representation of the role that the attitudes of others play in the lives of individuals with disabilities. That representation of attitude is presented as a one-act play. Within an oral history framework of narrative inquiry, the play offers a synthesis and restorying of the meanings inherent in each of these individual stories. Its purpose is to provide the reader/audience with a more intimate understanding of disability, demonstrating the relationship between others’ perceptions of disability and its apparently significant and categorical difference from the mainstream. Finally, the implications of this perception of disability as difference are made specific within the context of the ongoing employment challenges that continue to confront individuals living with disabilities.


Disability, Creative Non-Fiction, Narrative Inquiry, Oral History, Employment, Difference

Author Bio(s)

Jon Breen is a PhD candidate in the School of Social Work at the University of British Columbia in Canada. His research interests are framed within the topic of “employment and disability” and focus on how those living with disabilities are affected by being perceived as different. Current research includes the development of the Co-worker Acceptance of Disabled Employees (CADE) Scale, intended to serve as a measure of the effectiveness of disability-awareness training and as a means of comparing rates of employment with work-related attitudes toward employees with disabilities. Mr. Breen has worked in the field of “employment and disability” for over 30 years in both the public and private sectors. He was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013 for his community service work. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: jon@jonbreen.ca.


Mr. Breen would like to acknowledge the support of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Banting and Best Canada Graduate Scholarship; the Michael Smith Foreign Studies Supplement; and the University of British Columbia Four Year Fellowship for PhD Students.

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