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Most Favor Segregation, International Study Reveals
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 20, 2003

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND--On the eve of its World Summer Games, which begins June 21 in Dublin, the Special Olympics organization released the results of a study that looked at how people with intellectual disabilities are perceived around the world.

Researchers surveyed a total of 8,000 people from 10 countries: Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Republic of Ireland, Russia, Northern Ireland and the United States. The study focused on the expectations that respondents had about the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities and the barriers that keep them from being fully included in mainstream society.

Overall, those who responded had relatively low expectations of people with intellectual disabilities. For example, just 19 percent believed that people with such disabilities could handle an emergency, and just 36 percent believed that they could understand a news event. * (See editor's comment below)

Overwhelmingly, those who responded believed that segregated environments were the best places for such people to live, work and learn.

Regarding living arrangements, for instance, 75 percent believed that "the family", group homes and institutions were the best settings, with only 25 percent naming supervised apartments or independent living.

In employment, more than 50 percent believed that including workers with intellectual disabilities would increase the risk of accidents in the workplace. Fifty percent also believed that such inclusion would make the other workers less productive.

A majority of respondents named "special schools", "special classrooms", or "the home" as the best educational environments for children with such disabilities, rather than typical classroom settings.

Between 70 and 80 percent of the respondents pointed to a lack of government programs as the primary barrier to inclusion.

The head of the research team said the results show how important it is to work to change attitudes about people with disabilities.

"By exposing the often latent beliefs of ordinary people towards individuals with intellectual disabilities, scientists, educators, social service workers, parents, friends and many others will be better equipped to combat the negative stereotypes exposed by this research," Dr. Gary Siperstein, director of the center for social development and education at the university of University of Massachusetts, Boston, told NPR news.

"They will also be better equipped to encourage and grow the positive beliefs," he said.

Special Olympics President Timothy Shriver said the study strengthens the organization's resolve to expand its influence.

"Our greatest hope is that this study will serve as the catalyst for a real and lasting change in the public's attitudes toward the inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities in every aspect of society in every country on the planet."

Related press release with link to the study in PDF format:
"Multi-National Study of Attitudes" (Special Olympics)


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