In The Politics of Autism, I write:
But what is equal treatment? This question raises the “dilemma of difference,” as legal scholar Martha Minow explains. “When does treating people differently emphasize their differences and stigmatize or hinder them on that basis? And when does treating people the same become insensitive to their difference and likely to stigmatize or hinder them on that basis?”[i]
[i] Martha Minow, Making All the Difference (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), 20.
When people think about the stigma surrounding disabilities, they usually think about discomfort, fear, or sometimes even disgust.
But as I have previously argued, stigma can also result from people with disabilities receiving special treatment in the form of accommodations. I call this “special treatment stigma,” and it occurs in a variety of settings, including the workplace.
In higher education, this stigma often leads to students with disabilities either refusing to disclose their disabilities or experiencing social disapproval when they do. Both results are problematic.
Although people with disabilities are attending college in record numbers, they continue to face social, academic, and psychological stigma if their disability is visible or if they disclose a hidden disability.
Students with disabilities report feeling judged by their peers and their professors. They worry about standing out as different and perceive that their peers and professors either doubt their ability to perform academically or believe that they are receiving an unfair advantage if they receive academic accommodations.