Invisible impairments: Dilemmas of concealment and disclosure

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The article examines dilemmas of concealment and disclosure experienced by people with invisible impairments. These dilemmas are impairment effects. The fact that these people are able to pass as normal makes for these dilemmas. Motives for passing: fear of stigma, access to diverse identities, privacy, forgetting, comfort. Strategies: planning, self surveillance, minding spatial-temporal and social context, over-extending capacities, selecting narratives. Disclosure is motivated by the felt need to explain to others. Other motives: desire for different experience, reducing demands, altering evaluation standards, personal integrity and cohesion through voice/story telling, value transformation & activism, health services encounters. But what about recognition by significant others? Not wanting to deceive others? And being 'forced' to disclose/being revealed? Disclosure techniques: stopping self-surveillance, performance of disability, technical aides, telling/writing. Effects: distrust. Dilemmas/concerns of concealment and disclosure: difficulty in expressing impairments, disbelief/defying others' expectations, dealing with responses, employability (due to silencing of impairment experiences), timing, frequency. Invisibility due to nature of impairment, choice of activity, context, performance/doing concealment, conventions of silence/silencing, untrained eye of others, disbelief. Quotes on: Hyper-visibility of the visibly impaired (p 3) Passing, privacy & accountability (p 5) Passing strategies: planning, self surveillance, light, duration of interactions (p 6) Creating invisibility: doing concealment (p 6) Privileging certain contexts for passing efforts (p 6-7) Disclosure: explaining about impairment (p 7) Involuntary disclosure (p 8) Clothing & technical aides in passing and disclosure (p 8) Dialogue as vehicle for tension reduction (p 11) Dilemmas are related to a complex set of issues concerning credibility, good faith and timing (p 13) Invisibility of impairment is contextual (p 13) Comcealment and disclosure as ongoing processes (p 14)




Lingsom, S. (2008). Invisible impairments: Dilemmas of concealment and disclosure. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 10(1), 2–16.

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