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Perceptions of Disabled People by the Public

Disability Researchers has been conducting two nationwide surveys on the perceptions of the disabled by the public during the last several months. As of 12-8-2019, we have received 446 responses. Here are some of our findings.

Since I am combining responses from two surveys on identical questions, the numbers will not always total 446 nor will the percentages always equal or sum to 100%. 

Of the disabled respondents, 63.9 percent indicate they have witnessed either a great deal, a lot, or a moderate amount of discrimination against the disabled. Only 14.8 percent stated they witnessed no discrimination at all against disabled people. The top three ways in which they witnessed discrimination, coming in at 51.9 percent, 50.0 percent, and 39.8 percent, respectively, were: 1) Not acknowledging the presence of a disabled individual, 2) Not recognizing the abilities of a disabled individual, and 3) Laughing or making fun of an individual’s disability.

More the 80 percent of disabled people believe that people harbor prejudices against people with disabilities. There are a number of factors influencing those prejudices. Slightly more than 48 percent indicated that the prejudices harbored by people varied according to the type of disability that was being judged. Right at 38.9 percent indicated that the prejudices harbored varied to the extent to which people have interacted with the disabled. About 30.6 percent of the disabled respondents believe the educational level of the person judging the disabled person is a factor influencing the level of prejudice harbored.

Respondents were also asked if they believed adequate research and services are available to eliminate prejudices and discrimination against the disabled. Interestingly, 25 percent of the disabled respondents indicated that they felt no services and research were available to eliminate prejudices and discrimination with 31.5 percent saying only a little was available. Almost 28 percent felt there was a great deal or a lot of adequate research and services.

The disabled respondents, at 50.9 percent, indicated that the major problem in serving the disabled was that organizations and the public do not realize the vast number of differences and needs among the disabled. Other problems mentioned by 36 percent or more of the disabled respondents included:

  • organizations and the public disregard the emotional needs of the disabled
  • organizations and the public tend to focus too greatly on an individual’s disability rather than their abilities
  • organizations and the public tend to devalue the worth of a disabled individual because of their disability
  • organizations and the public are poorly informed of the needs and abilities of the disabled
  • there is an insufficient number of disabled role models in organizations due to a reluctance to place qualified disabled individuals in prominent positions

I will be adding more information later on these surveys, including more information from the non-disabled respondents.

Thanks, Dr. Robin Akins

Pain Perceptions and Disability

During the week of December 2nd, Disability Researchers conducted a nationwide survey of pain perceptions and disability. A total of 343 respondents participated in the online survey. Of the respondents, 106 were disabled and 237 were not disabled.

Not surprisingly, a significantly higher percentage of disabled individuals (77.4%) than non-disabled individuals (36.3%) indicated that they experienced chronic pain. A significantly higher percentage of disabled (45.3%) individuals stated their pain was either extremely or very painful compared to only 8.4 percent of the non-disabled. 

With regard to the pain relief methods employed by the respondents, the only significant differences between the disabled and non-disabled respondent are that only slightly higher percentages of the disabled used opiate based painkillers (17.0% vs. 3.8%) or music therapy (13.2% vs. 3.8%) while a significantly higher percentage of non-disabled respondents did not use any type of pain relief compared to their disabled counterparts (26.6%vs. 6.6%).

The top four treatments for pain, employed about equally by both disabled and non-disabled respondents are in order of popularity: 1) Ibuprofen, 2) Heat and Cold, 3) Acetaminophen, and 4) Exercise.

Only 31 percent of the disabled found their pain relief methods to be extremely or very effective compared to 35.5 percent of the non-disabled. The highest percentages of respondents found their pain relief methods to be only somewhat or not so effective (62.3% of the disabled and 51.3% if the non-disabled.

All in all, this survey suggests that there is some improvement that can be made in finding more effective pain relief methods among both disabled and non-disabled individuals. Some potential methods of pain relief that were not mentioned frequently by either the disabled or non-disabled respondents included  curcumin, yoga, biofeedback, acupuncture, electrical muscle stimulation, and physical or occupational therapy.

Unfortunately, I was unable to include all the various methods of pain relief in my brief survey and I hope to have a more inclusive survey later. However, I did want to briefly mention one therapeutic method that has implications for those who suffer severe acute or chronic pain and have yet to find suitable relief. Virtual Reality Therapy may provide an answer though it still has a few pitfalls. Jane E. Brody, in an article in the New York Times’ “The New Medicine,” describes this therapy as “a hack that occupies the brain so fully that it has no room to process pain sensations at the same time.” The major pitfall at this time is that once you turn off the virtual reality, the pain returns. Of course, it the major pain only occurred during the time you are on the virtual reality therapy, say if you are having a root canal procedure or debridement of burns, it may be extremely effective. Perhaps we can have another article devoted to just this therapy.


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