“Public attitudes to people with disabilities can be a key facilitator or a serious barrier to their inclusion and participation in the society.” (National Disability authority 2011:2) Discuss the statement drawing from your reading of relevant literature. (100)
A person’s attitude is the best way to predict their behaviour, however a positive attitude towards people with a disability plays a significant role in facilitating their acceptance and inclusion in society. However, social inclusion is not only linked to the financial background, and being involved in the community, but it also includes factors such as bullying, stigmatisation and labelling of individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, communication has been identified as one of the key factors that may birth serious barriers to people with disability from being involved and participating in the community.
Public attitude to people with disabilities can be a key facilitator or a serious barrier to their inclusion and participation in society. The society’s attitude towards people with disabilities has resulted in the disabled community to withdraw from taking part in the day to day activities in the community. This is as a result of how the public has shown a negative attitude toward the disabled as they tend to focus on their condition and not look at what the person is contributing to the community. Many people with disabilities are viewed negatively in society regardless of their influence in the community. ( Ferrera K, 2005)
Furthermore, research findings on the public’s attitude toward the disabled showed that the impact of media such as sport can change the worlds view on the people with a disability as it shows their capabilities, and, however, change the behaviour of the public toward the disabled.
One of the most influential factors that contribute to people with a disability to isolating themselves from society is communication. Communication plays a significant role in a person’s identity, behaviour and how they approach their daily activities. In most cases, the public may often experience difficulties in understanding or interpreting people with disabilities. However, this may lead to feelings of frustration to the person with a disability. Effective communication is one of the key barriers to people with disability sideling themselves, studies have shown that non-effective communication has been proved to result in high levels of behavioural changes especially amongst people with an intellectual disability. (Griffith C, 2016)
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On the other hand, another factor that influences people with disability to isolate themselves is the impact of cultural and religious attitudes. The way different cultures and religious groups interpret disability can affect an individual with a disability’s behaviour and attitude in a positive or negative way. However, some cultures in the Asian community believe that if a member of a family is born with a disability, the family would be under a curse, hence in such instances, the family tends to isolate themselves from the community. Furthermore, if family members feel ashamed of one of their own, it also affects the individual with the disability thus leading to a loss of identity which may result in mental health issues such as depression. On the other hand, some religious groups namely Christians and Muslims have shown less inclusion friendly attitudes towards individuals with a disability thus proves that most religious practices may not necessarily practice what they preach. (Coles. S. 2012)
On the other hand, these individuals face bullying, naming and shaming in the community and in schools. Some are nicknamed after their disability, young children in schools are teased by their fellow classmates due to their condition, and some parents have had to move from one neighbourhood to another seeking an environment where the child will be welcomed and embraced regardless of the disability. In cases like these, the child becomes distant, loses focus and their self-esteem is crushed. This may lead to suicidal thoughts, or they may become rebellious, and yet some, on the other hand, may feel motivated to prove the world wrong and tend to excel.
Labelling is another contributing factor of why people with disabilities do not participate and get involved in the society. People with intellectual disability face challenges of stigmatisation due to the public misattributing their condition. Some public members have a negative view of the disabled, thus they tend to make jokes, using offensive terms. The community tends to shun and blame the parents or the person with the disability due to lack of knowledge and awareness. This results in limiting social relationships with the fear of being judged, and this may also lead to the person distancing themselves from the community. However, studies have shown that there is a relationship between social distance and inclusion attitudes due to some reluctance tendencies that have been shown by some members of the public towards the people with disability and thus proved that discrimination continues to be one of the genuine results of social inclusion. (Scior. K. 2013)
Evidence from the British social attitudes survey conducted in 2009, the comfort levels are shown by public members around people with a disability varied depending on the type of impairment. A high level of discomfort was picked on people with physical disability as compared to those with intellectual disability or mental health problems. However, this alone shows that there is a lack of education and awareness on disability and that the UN has set policies which a lot of countries have agreed and signed but they are not being put into action by the government systems in by several countries.
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Policy barriers, due to lack of awareness and enforcement of the existing law and regulations with regards to the wellbeing, and acceptance of individuals with disabilities. People with disabilities find themselves being denied the opportunity to participate or benefit from some services in the conditions due to their condition, as they are labelled as unfit, or unwell. In such instances, those that suffer more are individuals with a physical disability.
In addition, another structural factor such as poverty can be a root of persistent discrimination. People with disabilities also have the need to be employed, thus employers must be encouraged to create platforms of employment. By promoting employment, it reduces poverty among in the disabled community. By promoting employment, they will be able to take charge of their lives and support themselves and not rely on support from welfare. However, discrimination continues to rise in the employment sector, regardless of how qualified they are for the job they would have applied for, most of them would not be hired.
Lastly, the healthcare sector is another domain that the disability individuals struggle with. The healthcare structure has limited effective public health programmes that facilitate people with different types of impairment such as autism. However, healthcare professionals and patient communication are ineffective. The individuals with a disability find themselves being excluded from decision making concerning their health, or care plan. This alone reveals how there is little or no understanding of a disability in the health sector.
The impact of the barriers of social inclusion, therefore, to individuals with disabilities affects their abilities and skills, due to lack of self-motivation and confidence. The disability community due to lack of education, poor literacy and mathematical skills may lead an unhealthy life because of lack of knowledge. However, to overcome these barriers, the disabled should access training skills, acquire knowledge and be competent so they can be able to participate in the community and be able to live independently.
Furthermore, they can come together and stand for their rights to be heard, form clubs and societies. Although this may need funding, they can start small and build up. As much as the public may have a different view or perspective about their conditions, they need to raise a voice, reach out to the public with the intentions of creating an awareness of their experiences of living with a disability and make it known to the world. The disability community need to stand up and advocate for themselves, even though it comes with challenges.
It appears that there is a need to raise awareness in the society with the aim of educating the public and making it known to the communities that regardless of the physical disability, mental challenge or intellectual disability every individual can contribute to the society with the exemption of their condition. On the other hand, individuals with a disability may need support systems that builds their self-efficacy, to also prepare them mentally and emotionally so they can be able to face the challenges they might face in relating with other public members. Furthermore, bodies like the HSE need to enforce that all health domains gain knowledge in dealing with people with disabilities, through mandatory workshops and training. In conclusion, a positive attitude amongst the public and the disability community can lead to an environment of reciprocal, cooperation, which can play a great impact in social inclusion.
- Coles, S. and Scior, K. (2011). Public Attitudes towards People with Intellectual Disabilities: A Qualitative Comparison of White British & South Asian People. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 25(2), pp.177-188.
- Griffiths, C. and Smith, M. (2015). Attuning: A Communication Process between People with Severe and Profound Intellectual Disability and Their Interaction Partners. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 29(2), pp.124-138.
- Hagan, L. and Thompson, H. (2013). It’s good to talk: developing the communication skills of an adult with an intellectual disability through augmentative and alternative communication. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42(1), pp.66-73.
- Journals.sagepub.com. (2018). Effective Communication Related to Psychotic Disorganised Behaviour in Adults with Intellectual Disability and Autism – Trine L Bakken, Dag E. Eilertsen, Nina Aa. Smeby, Harald Martinsen
- Scior, K., Addai-Davis, J., Kenyon, M. and Sheridan, J. (2012). Stigma, public awareness about intellectual disability and attitudes to inclusion among different ethnic groups. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, p.no-no.
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