The Image of Disability Among Intellectually Disabled People

  • Joaquim Valentim University of Coimbra, Portugal
  • Edite Dinis Os Malmequeres - Leiria, Portugal
Keywords: social representations, intellectually disabled people, image of disability, identity processes



The work presented in this article is based on the theory of social representations and it is an exploratory study that aims to know the image that intellectual disabled people have about disability. 17 intellectual disabled people of both sexes (ages range from 16 to 44 years old) participated in this study. An individual interview was done about disability and participants were asked to make two drawings: a drawing of a disabled person and a drawing of a non-disabled person. All data were collected by the psychologist of the Center where the participants are service users. After referring to the main methodological difficulties we faced in data collection, we present the results of a content analysis of participants’ answers. Essentially, this analysis shows the existence of two images of disability associated with two groups of individuals: those who saw disability as physical or sensorial disability and also as an inability to acquire some school competencies and those for whom the disability is always - and only - the easily visible disability, i.e., physical or sensorial disability. Finally, we discuss the results in the framework of social representations theory, in their links with identity processes and the social imaginary around the disability.

Author Biographies

Joaquim Valentim, University of Coimbra, Portugal

JOAQUIM PIRES VALENTIM is a Professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the University of Coimbra. He did his PhD in Social Psychology at the University of Coimbra and also the European PhD on Social Representations and Communication. His main research focus is on the fields of social representations, identity and intergroup relations, cultural diversity and social justice. Among other publications, he published in 1997 the book Escola, Igualdade e Diferença [School, equality and difference].

Edite Dinis, Os Malmequeres - Leiria, Portugal

EDITE DINIS is a psychologist. In 1988 she co-founded “Os Malmequeres” (a non-profit organisation working with mentally disabled people) and has been President of Direction since 2008. She has been responsible for several community-based projects for changing attitudes towards people with mental disabilities and for the improvement of their autonomy and quality of life. ADDRESS: Os Malmequeres (Leiria), Portugal. E-mail: