While America gets ready to host the Special Olympics World Games and celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, The Shriver Report Snapshot: Insight into Intellectual Disabilities in the 21st Century shows a nation that is constantly changing. The poll was conducted by Harris Polling in partnership with Shriver Media and Special Olympics International.
The findings reveal that the more than half of Americans who have personal contact with someone with intellectual disabilities (I/DD) are and have far more accepting and positive attitudes. On the other hand, findings also show that the lack of contact leaves a legacy of misinformation, false stereotypes, ignorance and fear towards those with intellectual disabilities in the remaining half of Americans. So, experience and exposure are found to be the most important factor when it comes to one’s attitude towards people with I/DD.
Dropping the report in the midst of the Special Olympics, which welcomes more than 6,500 athletes representing 165 countries, is a great way to not only advocate how personal contact effects ones attitudes but also to give more people a chance to experience interacting with people with I/DD.
The Shriver report reveals that experience, inclusion and intervention are the best ways to abolish isolation, intolerance and injustice. Yet, 3 to 9 million people with I/D remain isolated from the rest of society. A whopping 42% of Americans have no personal contact with someone with an intellectual disability, and therefore cling to old judgements and stereotypes.
It is great to know that a vast majority of Americans believe that people with intellectual disabilities should be encouraged to be employed (93%), yet one in five respondents said that they would feel uncomfortable hiring someone with an intellectual disability. Because of this, only a shocking 5% of Americans know what it is like to work alongside someone with I/DD.
This study shows that millennial women ages 18-34 have the most progressive attitudes towards, and expectations for people with I/DD. They are in general the most progressive, inclusive, and compassionate group of all groups surveyed. Approximately 62% of these women would feel comfortable having their child date/marry someone with I/DD.
Although 89% of Americans reported feeling comfortable with their child being in a class with a child with I/DD, 4 in 10 Americans don’t believe children with I/DD should be educated in the same classroom as their peers without disabilities. While most of these statistics show a majority of people being accepting of people with I/DD, there is still a large percent of people who showed discomfort when it came to interacting with someone with an I/DD.
The findings highlighted in The Shriver Report Snapshot are both eye-opening and motivating. It is clear that there is still a lot of confusion about intellectual disabilities throughout America and how they should be dealt with. This report will give our country a better understanding of how we are currently dealing with I/DD and what areas we need to work on.