Disability Perception Gap
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 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Worryingly, outdated and paternalist attitudes towards disabled people are stubbornly prevalent in society: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:
“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.

You can read the full report here.