Journal of Social Sciences

Able-Bodied Individuals’ Initial Interaction Decisions Concerning a Partner in a Wheelchair

Melissa Ann Tafoya and Paul Mongeau

DOI : 10.3844/jssp.2018.203.212

Journal of Social Sciences

Volume 14, 2018

Pages 203-212


Establishing and maintaining personal relationships is a quintessential part of the human experience, with a few notable exceptions, persons with disabilities have been virtually ignored by relationships scholars. This study seeks to advance disability research by examining how a wheelchair influences able-bodied participant’s perceptions of initial interactions. Using various scenarios, we asked students how they would react if they were at a bar and someone in a wheelchair showed an interest in them. Overall, men reacted more negatively than women (i.e., avoidance, sex goals, interest, homophily, etc.) at the thought of approaching someone in a wheelchair. We have an ethical obligation to break down these barriers and assumptions made by able- bodied individuals, especially since the quality of an individual’s relationships represents an important component of their quality of life.


© 2018 Melissa Ann Tafoya and Paul Mongeau. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.