Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Swanson, Jane


This study explored the ways in which the type of language used can influence attitudes about people with disabilities. The extent to which positive, neutral, or negative language about different disabilities influences able-bodied people's attitudes about those with disabilities was tested. This study examined the impact of language on the ways that different types of disabilities are perceived by exposing participants to one of three different language types about the disabled through vignettes. Participants were then asked to rank their preferences for roommates based on the person having one of five different disabilities. Overall attitudes towards the disabled did not differ based on the type of language participants were exposed to, but the Behaviors sub-scale of the Multidimensional Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons Scale (MAS; Findler, Vilchinsky, & Werner, 2007) showed significantly different scores for the negative (M = 19.79) and positive (M = 23.00) language conditions. Preferences for roommates were ranked differently based on the type of disability described in the vignette. The types of disabilities were ranked in the following order, from most to least preferable: (a) health condition (diabetes), (b) learning disability (dyslexia) (c) mental illness (PTSD), (d) deafness, and (e) mobility impairment (cerebral palsy).




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