woman in red sweater wearing black framed eyeglasses sitting on wheelchair

Survey: The 2020 Survey of how the Public Views Disabled People

Cogentica has been running 2 surveys on how the public views disabled people. As of December 8, 2020, we have 446 responses. I’m combining identical questions from the surveys. Note: we have just completed the 2021 disability survey and will be posting the results shortly.

Let’s review what disabled people have to say in the 2020 disability survey.


We asked disabled people if they’d seen discrimination against people with disabilities. In total, 63.9% said they’d seen a great deal, a lot, or a moderate amount of discrimination. Only 14.8% said they’d seen none at all.

We also asked what types of discrimination they saw. The top 3 were:

  • 51.9%: Not acknowledging the presence of a disabled person
  • 50%: Not recognizing a disabled person’s abilities
  • 39.8%: Laughing or making fun of someone’s disability

Public Prejudice

Next, we covered prejudice. Over 80% of disabled respondents said they believed people were prejudiced against disabled people.

Then we asked about what factors influenced prejudice. Here’s what they said:

  • 48%: The type of disability matters
  • 38.9%: How much they’ve interacted with disabled people matters
  • 30.6%: Someone’s education influences their prejudices

All these numbers are less than 50%. Thus, disabled people don’t seem to be sure exactly what makes someone prejudiced. Some believe that life experiences shape prejudice, while others aren’t sure.

Research & services

Then we asked about research and services related to ending prejudice and discrimination.

  • 25% thought none was available.
  • 31.5% thought only a little was available.
  • Nearly 28% thought there was a great deal or a lot.

Remember, almost 64% said they saw discrimination, and over 80% said people were prejudiced. When we consider that, these numbers aren’t great. Thus, disabled people see these problems but don’t see much help available.


Next, we asked about understanding.

About half (50.9%) of disabled people thought that organizations and the public don’t understand the differences and needs of disabled people. Also, 36% or more said that organizations and the public:

  • Disregard the emotional needs of disabled people.
  • Focus too much on someone’s disability rather than abilities.
  • Devalue disabled people.
  • Aren’t informed of the needs and abilities of disabled people.

They also felt there weren’t enough disabled role models. They said organizations hesitate to give disabled people prominent roles.


Discrimination and prejudice impact many disabled people. However, the reasons why people behave this way aren’t clear. Also, many disabled people don’t feel they have resources for help.

To fix this, we need more awareness and support. We can choose to see value in disabled people, and we can stand up when someone doesn’t. We can also support groups that help disabled people.

Thank you to everyone who answered our survey. If you’d like to help with ongoing research, check out our surveys page.

The 2021 Survey of Public Perceptions of the Disabled

This national survey is based on 452 disabled and non-disabled respondents from across the nation. Results are being tabulated and a report will be forthcoming soon.

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