"No, I'm Not Too Young to be Disabled": The Intersection of Age and Invisibility in the Delegitimizing Experiences of Disabled Young Adults




Trevino, Britney

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Sixty-one million adults in the United States are living with a disability. Of those, 10% are conditions that are “invisible.” Invisible disability is not as easily seen as the outwardly expressed, highly visible disabilities that most people think of, and consequently may be overlooked in an able-bodied society. Young adulthood is commonly thought to be the healthiest time in a person’s life, as well as a developmental stage where independence, social relationships, and identity are expanded. Experiences of invisible disability during young adulthood contradict the social expectations and stereotypes about disability. My research steps into the various spheres of invisibly disabled young adults’ lives to understand how the intersection of age and visibility come together to produce experiences of delegitimization—the questioning, judging, and challenging of claims to disability by others—in the negotiations of identity and experiences in education, employment, and medical care. Through interviewing participants about their experiences with disability, and my own experiences as an invisibly disabled young adult, I have found that the interplay of age and visibility produce unique experiences of delegitimization in all aspects of life, increases the barriers for invisibly disabled young adults to achieve adulthood, and suspends invisibly disabled young adults into liminal spaces in multiple areas of their lives, from identity to independence.



disability, invisible disability, delegitimization, disability identity, medical invisibility, legitimation, social model of disability, critical disability theory


Treviño, B. (2023). "No, I'm not too young to be disabled": The intersection of age and invisibility in the delegitimizing experiences of disabled young adults (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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