The head of a major charity says work needs to be done to increase understanding of the lives of disabled people, and the Government should lead the way.
Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive of Scope, said the charity’s latest survey found a significant gap between the reality of disabled people’s lives and the perception among the British public.
Scope is the leading pan-disability charity in England and Wales and campaigns to create a fair society, removing barriers that prevent disabled people from living the life they choose.
The new report, “The Disability Perception Gap”, finds that lack of understanding and negative attitudes towards disabled people are still far too common and present one of the most significant barriers to disabled people.
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. In 2017 one third (32%) of disabled people still felt there was a lot of disability prejudice, but only a fifth (22%) of the public shared that view.
Nearly half the British public don’t know how many disabled people there are, with 41% of the public thinking there is half the number of disabled people in society than there actually is.
One in eight (13%) respondents said they hardly ever or never think of disabled people as the same as everyone else, and 75% think of disabled people as needing to be cared for some or most of the time.
Mark Atkinson said: “We rapidly need to increase understanding of disabled people’s lives and step up efforts to combat the negative attitudes and misperceptions which can hold disabled people back in all areas of life.
“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.
“Right now, a million disabled people who are able to work and want to work are shut out of the jobs market. We also need to see more disabled people on our TV screens and creative industries.
“Government must show leadership, with a cross-Whitehall strategy to tackle discrimination and negative attitudes that affect disabled people every day. From the workplace, to schools, to public services and our transport networks, government can lead the way in creating a society where disabled people are equally valued and never feel like second class citizens.”