Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis


American Studies

Reader 1

Mattew Delmont

Reader 2

Kimberly Drake

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Rights Information

© 2014 Maddy Ruvolo


In a culture that values independence and productivity, non-normative bodies are understood as broken and useless. Disability is framed in medical terms, as a problem that should be resolved with prevention or cure. In response to this ableist perception of disability, the disability community has long argued that disability is not a medical issue but a social one, and its focus has been on increasing physical access and ending discrimination. Though the disability rights movement has made gains for some disabled people with this approach, they have excluded many others, including the chronically ill, who are disabled both by society and by their bodies themselves. Thus, chronically ill young adults in America face social exclusion and isolation, living in a culture where neither the mainstream nor the primary counter-narratives surrounding disability encompass their experiences. This thesis uses interviews conducted with chronically ill young adults to explore these issues, touching on disability identity, success narratives, and the Tumblr chronic illness community, ultimately arguing that the disability community needs to base its understanding of disability on a relational/political model that is politicized and inclusive.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.