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Report highlights issue of negativity towards Disabled people

27 July 2022

Nearly 75% of Disabled people have experienced negative attitudes or behaviour – including verbal and physical abuse – in the last five years, research by Scope has revealed.

The research, which involved a survey of 4015 Disabled adults, telephone interviews with 100 Disabled adults and focus groups with 24 Disabled people, concluded that 87% of those targeted found the experience had a negative impact on their daily lives. It affected their participation in key activities such as education, employment and socialising.

The behaviours encountered ranged from staring or scepticism that the person was actually disabled through to physical assault, such as being tipped out of their wheelchair – as reported by the BBC.

Officials involved in the benefits system and managers at work were often the most likely to display negative attitudes.

Even family (29%), friends (25%) and partners (27%) could display negative behaviour or attitudes, the participants said.

The survey reinforced suggestions that abusive or insulting behaviour may have risn during the pandemic.

One participant said: “Beginning of the first lockdown I was spat at, pushed and abused. I was being blamed because of 'spastic people' [who] needed to be protected… [and that’s why there was] a lockdown on everyone.”

The broader impact of these behaviours is highlighted by the research. This includes:

  • More than one-third (35) said they avoided seeking promotion or other opportunities at work
  • 30% of people avoided training or education opportunities
  • 23% avoided using public transport and socialising
  • 13% avoided health and social care settings after experiencing negative attitudes.

A Scope briefing on the research said that organisations and individuals can change the negative experiences of Disabled people. The latter need to understand the impact their words and actions can have, while the Government must revise its benefits policy and Disabled people’s “interactions with the benefits system”.

Fazilet Hadi, DR UK’s Head of Policy, said: “We like to think that we live in a society that has left behind a range of prejudices and hatred for those who are perceived as ‘different’. This research is yet more confirmation that for many Disabled people that is an illusion. We need leadership from the top on this distressing issue.

“As well as educating the media and the public about the realities of life as a Disabled person in 21st century Britain, we need a transformation in attitudes in the workplace and in public services. Disability organisations warned a decade ago that some language used by politicians to justify welfare cuts risked demonising Disabled people. Sadly, we’ve been proved right. It is truly appalling that 13% of Disabled people even avoid health and social care services because of discrimination and prejudiced attitudes.”