Methods: This basic qualitative inquiry (Merriam, 2002) analyzed Twitter conversations from disabled advocates who utilized the hashtag #CripTax to facilitate discussion on social media around the extra costs of disability. With more than 2.7 billion people conversing on social media annually, accessing these public platforms for qualitative research is becoming an important method for collecting data (Snelson, 2016). Using the twitteR package in R (Gentry, 2014), the authors coded a program to communicate with the Twitter application programming interface (API) and request each instance of the hashtag #CripTax from March of 2006 (when Twitter started) through April of 2019. Following data collection, NVivo 12 was used to code and analyze Tweets. Thematic analysis was used to identify emergent themes from the #CripTax conversations.
Results: The original dataset contained 6,565 tweets, spanning from 2013-2019. Retweets (5,208, 79%) were excluded from the analysis. The final data frame consisted of N = 1,357 (21%) unique uses of #CripTax. The tweets were coded into 20 sub-themes drawn from 6 overarching themes, including: medical expenses not covered by health insurance, extra costs of living in an accessible neighborhood, extra costs associated with public transportation, pass-through expenses from private businesses (i.e., #handicapitalism), additional costs for specially-prepared food, and the cost of lost productivity due to time spent advocating for accessibility. Themes and sub-themes are explored in-depth.
Conclusions and Implications: This study used the lived experiences of people with disabilities and disability advocates to document some of the hidden costs of living with a disabling condition. Previous studies have contributed to the understandings of this phenomenon, but have not always considered the personal accounts of those directly impacted. Insights from this study are important because they empower those in the disability community to describe this unique experience in their own words. The findings will be beneficial to researchers interested in issues of poverty and disability, particularly as they relate to systematic and structural inequalities. These results will also be valuable to social work practitioners, as they provide a deeper understanding of the everyday barriers faced by the disability community.