Survey reveals social attitudes to disability
Whilst the headlines may have been grabbed by the findings about a decline in the support for civil liberties in the light of an increased terrorist threat, the 23rd report into British Social Attitudes, published today by the National Centre for Social Research has also revealed widespread prejudice against disabled people. Time for some facts and figures.
75% of respondents think that there is prejudice against disabled people in Britain today - but only 25% think that there is a lot of prejudice. Yet, as the results go on to show, the survey's respondents display views which indicate quite widespread prejudice.
More than half (52%) of the respondents don't think of schizophrenia as a disability. Just 44% think that someone with cancer or an older person who needs a hearing aid is disabled, and only a quarter think that someone with a severe facial disfigurement is disabled. But nearly a third think that someone who is temporarily on crutches because of a broken leg qualifies as a disabled person. So while the legal definition of disability under the DDA is any person who has a physical or mental impairment or long-term health condition, which has a substantial and long-term effect on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities, the general public appears to have a far narrower view - one that is purely focused on physical impairments.
There's a lot of unease at the prospect of coming into contact with people with certain impairments. Only 29% say that they would feel comfortable if someone with schizophrenia moved in next door to them, with only 19% saying that they would feel comfortable about a person with schizophrenia marrying a close relative of theirs.
It's not just mental health impairments, though: only 21% say they would be comfortable with a close relative marrying someone with a long-term health condition like MS or severe arthritis, and just over half would be comfortable with a family member walking down the aisle with a blind person.
The news gets better elsewhere in the survey. For instance, knowing a disabled person makes for a great impact in reducing prejudice. People with first or second hand experience of disability tend to perceive prejudice to be more widespread and hold less negative attitudes towards disabled people. So on the question of someone with schizophrenia moving in next door, 82% of people who don't know anyone who is disabled would not feel comfortable, compared with 71% who know someone who is disabled. Yet 62% of disabled people themselves would not feel comfortable in such a situation - an interesting statistic.
So what do you make of these research findings? Do they tally with your experience of life and attitudes? Are there surprises amongst the facts and figures? Are you shocked by what the general public thinks, or does it all seem to comfirm what you already know? Tell us your views in the comments.