British attitudes towards disabled people exposed

  • Gap between the reality of disabled people's lives and what the British public think they are like exposed by the charity Scope
  • Nearly half the public don't know how many disabled people there are
  • Outdated and paternalist attitudes towards disabled people are stubbornly prevalent in society
The proportion of the British public that thinks there is a lot of prejudice towards disabled people has dropped significantly, but disabled people have a markedly different story to tell. In response, "We rapidly need to increase understanding of disabled people's lives." And, "Government must show leadership," says Scope Chief Executive Mark Atkinson. 

In 2000, a third (37%) of disabled and a third (34%) of non-disabled people felt that there was a lot of prejudice towards disabled people.

Seventeen years later – in 2017 – a third (32%) of disabled people still feel there is a lot of disability prejudice, however, now only a fifth (22%) of the public think there is a lot of prejudice.

This reveals the gap between the reality of disabled people’s lives and the public’s understanding.
Nearly half the British public don't know how many disabled people there are: 
  • 41% of public think there is half the number of disabled people in society than there actually is.
Worryingly, outdated and paternalist attitudes towards disabled people are stubbornly prevalent in society:
  • One in eight (13%) respondents said they tend to think of disabled people as the same as everyone else hardly ever or never.
  • 75% think of disabled people as needing to be cared for some or most of the time.
The research - carried out for the charity Scope by the National Centre for Social Research as part of the annual British Social Attitudes Survey - is released in a report by Scope, called: The Disability Perception Gap. 

Here’s what disabled people told Scope about the impact of negative attitudes on their lives [1]:
  • “I’ve experienced loneliness as an adult, being excluded from social situations or activities due to my condition or people making assumptions about what I am able to do, or not” – Shani, entrepreneur, Walsall
  • “[I’ve had] people getting off the bus because they didn't want to share one with 'a cripple'” – Anon, from a Scope-led survey
  • “People used to see me as ‘one of them’ but now, because I’m disabled, they see me differently.” – Hannah, 27
For the charity Scope, familiarity is the key to breaking down barriers and increasing understanding and this is backed up by the research: 
  • Over a third (37%) of people who have a disabled friend they know fairly well feel there is a lot of prejudice; against less than a fifth (17%) of people who don’t have a close disabled friend.
 
Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive at disability charity Scope, said: 

“We rapidly need to increase understanding of disabled people's lives and step up efforts to combat negative attitudes.

"Unless we recognise negative attitudes exist we can’t challenge or improve them.

“Negative attitudes and misperceptions can hold disabled people back in all areas of life, from work and to shopping on the high street.

“But this research shows that familiarity with disability and disabled people is key to breaking down barriers.

“We need to ensure there is better visibility and representation of disabled people in everyday life. Working with disabled people can have a significant impact on attitudes.
 
“Right now, a million disabled people who are able to work and want to work but are shut out of the jobs market. We also need to see more disabled people on our TV screens and creative industries.

“Government must show leadership, with a cross-Whitehall strategy to tackle discrimination and negative attitudes that affect disabled people everyday. From the workplace, to schools, to public services and our transport networks, government can lead the way in creating a society where disabled people are equally valued and never feel like second class citizens.”

Ends
 

Notes to the editor:

Today (23 May 2018) Scope is releasing its report: The Disability Perception Gap, that outlines the extent that a lack of understanding and negative attitudes towards disabled people are still far too common and present one of the most significant barriers to disabled people living the lives they choose.

For more information contact Bernie Fennerty in the Scope press office on 020 7619 7200 or email bernie.fennerty@scope.org.uk.

Scope is the leading pan-disability charity in England and Wales. We’re a strong community of disabled and non-disabled people. We provide practical and emotional information when it is most needed. We use our collective power to change attitudes and end injustice. We campaign relentlessly to create a fair society, removing barriers that prevent disabled people from living the life they choose. We won’t stop until we achieve a society where all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness. For more information go to www.scope.org.uk 

[1] Qualitative research from a Scope focus groups and interviews conducted separately to the NatCen British Social Attitudes Survey.

The National Centre for Social Research, Britain’s largest independent social research organisation, aims to promote a better-informed society through high quality social research (www.natcen.ac.uk).

The 2017 British Social Attitudes survey consisted of 3,988 interviews with a representative, random sample of adults in Britain. Interviewing was carried out between July and October 2017. Addresses are randomly selected and visited by one of NatCen’s interviewers. After selecting one adult at the address (again at random), the interviewer carries out 55 minute long interview.

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