Disability Issues: Discrimination, Employment|
Living with Cerebral Palsy
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Discrimination and attitudes
Disabled people continue to face
discrimination and difficulties imposed by society in every area of their lives.
The common experiences of disabled people are of rejection and enormous
difficulty in taking part in even the most ordinary activities such as shopping,
going to the cinema or to the pub.
Discrimination is present in education and
employment, often leading to lifelong dependence on welfare benefits.
Many polling stations are inaccessible;
therefore disabled people are denied the right to vote on equal terms with
non-disabled people. In addition, disabled people are forced into dependence,
suffer humiliation and struggle with an inaccessible environment every day.
As a consequence, many disabled people give up
the struggle of attempting to take part in society and stay at home.
The exclusion of disabled people from society
means that some non-disabled people have never met a disabled person and
therefore do not have the opportunity to develop opinions and attitudes about
them based on personal experience.
Lack of awareness and fear of the unknown is
compounded by the predominantly negative media images of disabled people and of
disability generally. For example, in a survey conducted by The Leonard Cheshire
Foundation (4), nearly one-third of people questioned thought that
wheelchair-users were “less intelligent”; and 44% of opinion leaders thought
that using a wheelchair would present a major obstacle to gaining employment.
Such misconceptions lead to a vicious circle of rejection, discrimination and
What we say both reflects and shapes the way
we think. The language we use about disability is an important way of
influencing our own and society’s attitudes.
Words and phrases to avoid include:
handicapped person, spastic, wheelchair-bound, sufferer, the disabled.
Use the following instead: disabled person has
cerebral palsy, wheelchair-user, has an impairment.
Social versus medical model of disability
Behaviour towards disabled people is governed
by the picture or ‘model’ of disability that others carry in their minds. These
models, in turn, affect the way in which society is organised.
The two main models are:
medical model sees disability as an illness and disabled people as patients in
need of a cure so that they can fit into ‘normal’ society. The emphasis is on
the condition rather than the person.
social model recognises disabled people as equals who are battling against very
unequal odds i.e. society’s attitudes. The emphasis is on society’s
responsibilities and changing attitudes rather than the disabled person’s
Discrimination against disabled people begins
from the moment they are born. Disabled children are often segregated, mainly
because of medical considerations, which undermines the possibility of enjoying
life alongside non-disabled peers. However, the Special Educational Needs and
Disability Act 2001 makes it unlawful for all education providers to
discriminate against disabled pupils. Full details of these measures are
available on the Disability Rights Commission website:
Early school experiences (positive or
negative) can have a profound impact on how disabled people feel about
themselves and influence expectations about their future role in society.
Meanwhile, the controversy over special
schools continues. Some people argue that whilst special segregated education
exists, most non-disabled children will never come into contact with disabled
children. Their attitudes therefore are formed from those of adults and the
media, which often perpetuates negative attitudes and stereotyping. Disabled and
non-disabled children learning and growing up together takes away the fear of
the unknown and makes disability part of the norm.
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