When invisible becomes visible: experiences with the long cane
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 09:37 authored by Emma Louise Sutherland
Research into disability and stigma has portrayed an overly pessimistic view of responses to stigma by failing to incorporate recognition of stigma-related experiences as potentially being part of a generally positive experience. Further to this, research has focused on dividing benefits and burdens of parents of children with disabilities rather than presenting these aspects in a holistic manner. This study aimed to identify parental perceptions of stigma that may impact interactions in public places, specifically seeking to answer the question: what are the range of public-based experiences of parents of children who are vision impaired? Furthermore, does the presence of the long cane alter these experiences? Semistructured interviews and the Parenting Daily Hassles Survey were utilised to identify parental perceptions of public reactions to their child’s long cane use. Stigma theory was used to analyse interview transcripts to also ascertain the extent to which stigma was present within experiences. Findings of the study identified the presence of not only stigma, but also positive experiences and the ability for individuals to be resilient. Parental reactions to public responses also seemed to vary depending on context and the level of stress arising from other factors. This study has found that although the long cane is viewed as a stigma symbol, it is, most importantly, a symbol of freedom and independence. Unlike much of the previous research on disability and stigma, this study demonstrates that allowing a broader focus beyond stigma when collecting and coding interviews, reveals that some situations containing elements of stigma are perceived as positive overall.