Impairment (in)visibility and stigma: how disabled entrepreneurs gain legitimacy in mainstream and disability markets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Entrepreneurs’ use of linguistic practices, such as storytelling, in building legitimacy with customers and others is well documented. Yet, not all entrepreneurs may equally use or benefit from such practices in their legitimacy-building efforts. For those with stigmatized social identities, like disability, embodied properties and practices of non-linguistic, more visual kind, may be salient despite being under-explored in the entrepreneurial legitimacy studies. To address this knowledge gap, this article examines how disabled entrepreneurs gain legitimacy with customers and, more specifically, how impairment visibility shapes their capacity to do so. Drawing primarily on in-depth interviews with UK-based entrepreneurs, the article extends Suchman’s work by reconceptualizing his legitimacy-building strategies considering impairment visibility. It is argued that impairment visibility can both enable and constrain legitimacy depending on the product offering and the target market. Disabled entrepreneurs are found to adopt four embodied legitimacy-building strategies in the marketplace, each with specific implications for their micro-level interactions with customers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)894-919
Number of pages26
JournalEntrepreneurship and Regional Development
Issue number9-10
Early online date19 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
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 work is properly cited.


  • Disabled entrepreneurs
  • embodied properties
  • impairment (in)visibility
  • legitimacy
  • non-linguistic practices
  • stigma


Dive into the research topics of 'Impairment (in)visibility and stigma: how disabled entrepreneurs gain legitimacy in mainstream and disability markets'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this