Poll Finds Public Perception Varies On Intellectual Disabilities
Attitudes about people with intellectual disabilities are evolving, a new poll suggests, but opinions remain tied to the level of personal connection individuals have with this population.
In an online survey of over 2,000 people across the country, 56 percent said they know someone with an intellectual disability. That connection appeared to be directly correlated with how comfortable individuals were with the idea of their children being in class with, dating or marring a person with an intellectual disability as well as their own ideas about employing or working with individuals with special needs.
The findings released Friday come from a survey conducted this month by Harris Poll for Special Olympics and Shriver Media. The results were released ahead of the start of the Special Olympics World Games this weekend in Los Angeles.
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Overall, the results depict conflicting views about the place of people with intellectual disabilities in American life.
While 93 percent of people agreed that those with intellectual disabilities should be employed, 1 in 5 indicated that they would not be comfortable hiring such individuals.
Similarly, the vast majority of those surveyed said that adults with intellectual disabilities should live independently, but 8 percent indicated that this population ought to be institutionalized.
The poll also found varying opinions about inclusion in education, with 39 percent of respondents saying that kids with intellectual disabilities should not be educated in classrooms with other children their age.
Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed said they find it offensive to call someone with a disability retarded, but the majority of Americans believe it’s acceptable to use the word to describe themselves when they err.
Women ages 18 to 34 appeared to be the most accepting, the poll found. More than 60 percent of young women said they would be okay with their child marrying or dating a person with intellectual disabilities.
“I am deeply encouraged that young people, especially young women, are paving the way to a more conscious, caring and compassionate society,” said Maria Shriver, founder of Shriver Media and a Special Olympics International board member. “The open-minded attitudes of this generation who grew up in classrooms and playing sports with people with (intellectual disabilities) makes an undeniable case for inclusion.”