A new report by Scope has revealed the perceived extent of supposed negative attitudes that are held towards disabled people – and how many non-disabled people don’t realise the scale of the issue.
According to the research, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research, one in three disabled people still feel that there’s a lot of prejudice against disabled people.
But only one in five non-disabled people think the same. This is what Scope is calling the disability perception gap.
Scope said: “It may seem self-evident that disabled people face prejudice, but many non-disabled people do not understand the scale of the negative attitudes towards disability.
“Some difference wouldn’t be surprising – disabled people have to live with this prejudice every day, whereas non-disabled people may only ever know about it second hand.”
But it claims that the gap is growing. In 2000, there was only a slight difference between the views of disabled and non-disabled people when it came to disability prejudice. Over the last 20 years, however, the gap has trebled, claims the research.
The charity said that there is now a “real danger that many non-disabled people think that disability prejudice has been tackled long before it has been, which could block further attempts to improve the situation”.
Scope said the UK needs to make sure that the experiences of disabled people are listened to and put at the heart of any programme designed to address negative and harmful attitudes.
It added: £When it comes to improving understanding, it seems that nothing beats personal contact with a disabled person. Whether it’s a colleague, a friend or a family member, having a relationship with a disabled person makes a real difference to non-disabled people’s attitudes.
“For example, 10% of people who claim not to know any disabled people think of disabled people as ‘getting in the way’ some of the time – an opinion held by only 3 percent of people with a disabled colleague.
“However, a third of the population claim not to know a single disabled person. This means that their views on disability are far more likely to be based on stereotypes than any knowledge of what life is like for a disabled person.”
It suggests that an attempt to improve attitudes will have to increase people’s understanding of what it means to be disabled, and the challenges that disabled people face on a daily basis.
Scope is now calling for efforts to get more disabled people into work to be amplified.
With only 7% of people saying they have a disabled colleague, a million more disabled people in work could make a real difference to people’s views of disability and disabled people, the charity believes.
It concluded: “It’s why we’re calling on the media to do more to ensure that disabled people and their experiences are properly represented on screen. By supporting disabled talent, they can show what it means to be disabled in 2018.
“Such efforts on their own will help, but they won’t be sufficient. We need a coherent approach to improving attitudes across all areas of life. Earlier this week the Government announced a new working group to look at the issues facing disabled people.
“We’re calling on this group, and the rest of Government, to take prejudice seriously and launch a new cross-departmental disability strategy, focused on improving attitudes and reducing prejudice towards disabled people.”