Available literature demonstrates that the phenomenon of disability in a society is as old as the history of humankind (Sahin et al., 2010), though a lot of people are yet to come to terms with the fact that people with disabilities are normal human beings (Lili et al., 2012).The present paper attempts to bring into the limelight some prevailing social responses and attitudes towards the disabled persons that continue to substantially affect their lives and social interactions.
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In healthcare settings, available literature demonstrates that persons with disabilities are perceived by health professionals “…as passive recipients who, lack self confidence, are unable to meet their emotional needs and cannot take care of themselves” (Sahin et al., 2010 p. 2272). This attitude is responsible for the low-quality care provided to this group of the population. Additionally, some healthcare professionals feel that a person with a disability is different from normal in spite of a multiplicity of studies suggesting that persons with disabilities are not necessarily unwell and may not have an illness (Ten Klooster et al., 2009). However, health professionals with adequate education and awareness of people with disabilities develop a positive attitude towards this group of the population, viewing them as productive community members who have the capacity to not only decide what is their own self-interest, but also to lead a normal and fulfilling life (Ten Klooster et al., 2009).
In the general population, persons with disabilities are perceived as too demanding, dependent, and incapable of actualizing their creative capacity towards self-sufficiency (Ten Klooster et al., 2009). Additionally, it is normal for community members to view persons with disabilities as social outcasts, who are possessed by evil spirits and therefore must be ostracized from society (Ostapczuk & Musch, 2011). In many communities around the world, the physically or intellectually disabled people are evaluated through the lens of social cynicism, leading to the development of negative attitudes toward them as people who cannot be trusted with positions of power (Lili et al., 2012), and as people who cannot attend school and be gainfully employed (Ostapczuk & Musch, 2011). In workplace environments, the physically challenged people continue to face negative attitudes such as objections by staff members to routine utilization of wheelchairs, making their lives extremely difficult to manage (Sahin et al., 2010).
In treatment, it is evident that persons with disabilities are exposed to discriminative practices in the community, workplace and in healthcare settings, making it difficult for them to equitably access the resources available in the society such as healthcare and rehabilitation services necessary for their health and wellbeing (Sahin et al., 2010). This group of the population continues to suffer rejection and exclusion at the very hands of people expected to provide care and love to them. For example, the hostile physical environments in workplace settings continue to exclude persons with physical disabilities from proper use of toilets and other amenities. The society continues to demonstrate rejection and discrimination to persons with disabilities by refusing to incorporate them into the social networks and important decision making processes. It is important to note that many communities around the world do not include persons with disabilities in making decisions that actually affect them or impact upon their lives – may they be legislative decisions, health concerns or otherwise (Sahin et al., 2010).
In my opinion, some of the factors that underlie the discussed attitudes include lack of adequate education and awareness on the plight of persons with disabilities, negative labeling and social stigmatization, and lack of appropriate intervention approaches mirroring the needs of persons with disabilities at the community level.
Lili, M., Shuang, C., Mingjie, Z., & Jianzin, Z. (2012). Social axioms and implicit attitudes about people with disabilities. Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, 40(2), 251-258.
Ostapczuk, M., & Musch, J. (2011). Estimating the prevalence of negative attitudes towards people with disability: A comparison of direct questioning, perspective questioning and randomized response. Disability & Rehabilitation, 33(5), 399-411.
Sahin, H., & Akyol, A.D. (2010). Evaluation of nursing and medical students’ attitudes towards people with disabilities. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 19(15/16), 2271-2279.
Ten Klooster, P.M., Dannenberg, J.W., Tall, E., Burger, G., & Rasker, J. (2009). Attitudes towards people with physical or intellectual disabilities: Nursing students and non-nursing peers. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 65(12), 2562-2573.