In this dissertation, I explore the lives of students with visible and invisible physical disabilities, the able bodied communities perception of the disabled, and the intersection between the two. Through research, I have been unable to find comprehensive information regarding the comparison of students with invisible and visible disabilities and their coping habits in a college environment. Research has been unable to identify the linkages and the differences between these two groups, and the easier versus harder lifestyles of the two. Over the past 8 months, I have written a research proposal, researched sociological theories and proposed a literature review, conducted interviews with 12 participants who voluntarily participated in my study, and discussed the results of the livelihood of those who live with visible and invisible disabilities on an able bodied campus. I hypothesized that those who live with an invisible versus visible physical disability will have an easier time coping with their disability in a college setting because they have the luxury to hide their disability. Similarly, I can hypothesize that those who live with a visible disability on an able bodied campus will have a more difficult time coping because they are not able to hide their disability - thus experiencing a loss of belonging and normalcy. Throughout my interviews, I learned that my hypothesis was supported and that students with visible disabilities have an easier time navigating the able bodied campus and feel a stronger sense of belonging to their peers.

From my own experience as a college student who has an invisible disability, I have had to undergo various coping mechanisms to blend in with my peers. These coping mechanisms have made me look at my surroundings in a new lens, and acknowledge the prevalence of disability on a college campus. This personal experience interested me into the lives of my surrounding peers and their similar adversity.

It is my intention to provide people with more information regarding disability on Hamilton College’s campus. This knowledge should enact a call to awareness for people to be more understanding, knowledgeable and empathetic towards disability and its debilitating effects.

Type of Work

Thesis - Limited Access

Department or Program



Hamilton College


Bachelor of Arts

Date of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Stephen Ellingson, Matthew Grace

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.