Methods: Participants of the current study are 90 women with disabilities in China. The majority of the participants are from the age of 21 to 30 (65%), single (57.8%), reside in urban cities (77.8%), have a physical disability (60%), and had their disability since childhood (70%). Among the participants 62.2% participate in an online disability peer support group. These participants are part of a larger program evaluation of an online grassroot disability peer support group. Data were collected online from both online group participants and other online platforms. We used Darling and Heckert’s Questionnaire on Disability Identity and Opportunity (2010) and a few other items of interests. Participants were asked to rate on a Likert scale from 1 to 5 (strongly disagree to strongly agree) on statements such as “I am a better person because of my disability”. Among the 27 questions on disability identity, 14 are negative items. We reverse coded the responses of these items and calculated a sum of score. ANOVA and t-tests were conducted to explore how demographic and environmental factors affects disability identity development. Hierarchical multiple linear regression analyses were conducted to examine the association between independent variables (Block 1: age, disability’s impact on activity of daily living (ADL), level of support needed, disability visibility, and disability on-set; Block 2: Participation of online support group or not, participation of offline gathering or not, level of engagement in online group; Block 3 residence in urban or rural setting, whether the living environment is accessible or not, and family’s attitude towards disabled individual) and total scores of the disability questionnaire.
Results: Approximately 40% of the variance in disability identity was explained by all predictor variables (p<.001). Among predictors, disability’s impact on ADL (β= -.39, p< .01), being highly active in online disability support group (β= .36, p< .01), and residence (β= -.22, p< .05) explained a significant proportion of the variance. Being part of an online peer support group was marginally significant (β =.20, p=.085).
Conclusion: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study examining disability identity among Chinese women with various kinds of disabilities. Our findings show that disability online peer support group plays a critical role in developing a positive disability identity among women with disabilities. Future rehabilitation and habilitation interventions could consider using disability online peer-support groups to support individuals with various kinds of disabilities especially those with physical disabilities.