Inclusion is at the heart of national policy relating to the support of people with learning disabilities, but there is little research available into the attitudes of the general public to people with learning disabilities.
The researchers in this study were interested in particular in the how young people from White British and South Asian backgrounds might differ in their attitudes towards people with learning disabilities and to explore how they arrived at their beliefs.
Using a qualitative design they studied focus groups and carried out individual interviews with 61 White British and South Asian adolescents who were aged between 16–19 years. They also used questionnaires to compare the findings of this small study with a much larger one that was being run at the same time.
Using Thematic analysis to study their results indentified five themes. The analysis also suggested there was confusion about the concept of ‘intellectual disability’. The authors suggested that this was not helped by the fact that people with learning disabilities were virtually invisible in the mainstream media that young people might use to get their information.
They found that their participants did have many positive beliefs, but when these were examined in more detail, they found underlying ambivalence or even hostile attitudes.
They suggest there were differences between the two groups and suggest that the findings of this small study add weight to the notion that there is a continuing need for raising public awareness about learning disabilities and in particular to pay attention to the need for culturally sensitive support.
Public Attitudes towards People with Intellectual Disabilities: A Qualitative Comparison of White British & South Asian People, Coles, S. & Scior, K., in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 25: 177–188