Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2013

Document Type




First Advisor

Dr. Mary Klages


Because my brother was born with cerebral palsy, I became interested in why the general, nondisabled public inaccurately presumes his abilities, or disabilities. This thesis proves that the cultural representation of people with disabilities results from a pejorative disabled lexicon. These disability discourses circulate a disability logos; one where a person with a disability is helpless, born into unfair circumstances, and therefore unable to live a happy life. This misunderstanding of a person with a disability is incongruent with disability government policy, which has created laws pushing for the incorporation of people with disabilities into public society. Such policies, like the American with Disabilities Act, the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, and The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, mandate the inclusion of people with disabilities into the workplace, public buildings, and schools. These acts thereby remove the descriptor of “helpless” by allowing individuals with disabilities the possibility of independence within these public spaces. My thesis was born out of this perplexing dilemma; why cultural interpretations of disabilities fails to include these individuals into majority society as opposed to government policies. It is a quizzical investigation into this still prominent disability logos. I examine reasons for its existence, the history of such, and why this logos remains embedded in the cultural representation of disabilities today. This thesis argues that the language used to discuss people with disabilities, and metaphors incorporating disabilities, must be changed to advance cultural representations of a person with a disability because of language’s portrayal of cultural truths.