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Respondents generally agreed that ableist discrimination was unacceptable. Alamy Stock Photo

Study finds negative stereotypes about disabilities may fuel excuses for ableism

Respondents were more likely to display ableist behaviour towards those with mental health conditions, intellectual disabilities or autism.

A STUDY HAS found that a large number of people in Ireland use negative stereotypes about disabled people to justify discriminating against people with disabilities.

The innovative survey, conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institution (ESRI), also found that respondents highlighted potential links between sexism and ableism.

The research was conducted by giving a number of scenarios to respondents that described potential discrimination. Different versions of the scenarios varied by whether the person had a disability, the type of disability they had and their gender

While respondents agreed that scenarios where discrimination was present were unacceptable, it was found the same judgement was not provided in the instances where complex conditions – with heavy stereotypes – were presented to them.

The ESRI gave the example where respondents found it to be more acceptable to reduce the school hours of a child with autism, compared to a child with a speech and language disorder. This was despite other all details being the same.

Patterns of higher levels of ableism were recorded towards mental health conditions, intellectual disabilities and autism over physical or sensory disabilities.

Lead author of the study Dr Shane Timmons said that such beliefs may “pose a significant challenge” for people with a disability, especially if the forms of ableism depend on the social situation.

To that, the research found that people who are more familiar with those who have a disability – such as a partner, parent or carer of someone – were more likely to show lower levels of ableism.

Timmons said: “Not being familiar with a disabled person is associated with stronger ableist beliefs, so improving the inclusion of disabled people in communities and workplaces may help to combat this prejudice and discrimination.”

The survey also found that may there may be a like between ableism and sexism when researchers established that the group found it less acceptable for a single mother, with a physical disability, to start a new relationship than a man with the same disability.

The survey, funded by the National Disability Authority, took a sample of 2,000 adults and plays a role as part of a joint-research venture to serve areas of policy.

Director of the National Disability Authority, Dr Aideen Hartney, said the research will assist the group develop a new National Disability Strategy – which will include measures to inform the broader public about actions to reduce ableism.

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