Threats to embodied well-being: an exploration of how disabled people negotiate barriers in hospital settings

Ruth Bailey*, Karen Lowton, Sasha Scambler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
212 Downloads (Pure)


Taking a social model of disability approach, this article explores how disabled people negotiate barriers in the large, modern hospital settings typically found in complex healthcare systems. While there is evidence of intractable barriers in the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, little is known about the actions disabled people take in the face of barriers and the immediate effects of doing so. Analysis of data from a qualitative study of disabled people’s healthcare encounters is presented. This draws on the concept of threats to embodied well-being to understand how disabled people perceive barriers and the influence this perception has on barrier negotiation. It demonstrates that some barriers are unique to healthcare and that these place disabled people in situations where their well-being is threatened. Despite these situations being inherently disempowering, disabled people are forced to take whatever action they can to protect the embodied self. We theorise that barriers are created inadvertently by the design, organisation and healthcare practices characteristics of modern hospital settings. Effective barrier removal requires understanding not only their impact on disabled people’s embodied well-being, but also the political, policy and social relations implicated in their creation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine
Early online date3 Jan 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Jan 2019


  • disabled people
  • disabling barriers
  • embodied well-being
  • healthcare services
  • qualitative
  • threats
  • UK


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