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Shifting the dial on community attitudes towards people with disability

A man in a wheelchair and his friends toast their drinks together in the air.

What can be done to change attitudes towards people with disability, so they are better included in society?

This is the question the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of People with Disability (Disability Royal Commission) posed to researchers from the University of New South Wales and Flinders University.

The findings are published in the Changing community attitudes to improve inclusion of people with disability research report, released earlier this month.

The research

Researchers began with an evidence review. They looked at past national and international studies on good practice in policy and successful strategies for changing attitudes and behaviours towards people with disability.

They then asked more than 60 people from business, government, community and advocacy organisations around Australia for their thoughts on how community attitudes and behaviour towards people with disability could be changed.

The research is inclusive of the intersectional experiences of culturally diverse people, as well as members of the LGBTQIA+ community, First Nations people, and people living in rural and remote areas.

The findings

So, what did the evidence review and interviews find? They found the key to changing attitudes, behaviours and outcomes could be found in interventions based on information and education. Successful interventions emphasised:

  • active presence of a diversity of people with disability across all life domains, including inclusive schooling, employment and communities;
  • leadership by people with disability at the centre, and leadership by organisations and government that highlights the diverse contribution of people with disability;
  • targeting multiple levels and multiple types of policy and intervention in a holistic approach to system change;
  • long term approaches with adequate resourcing to achieve structural, sustained changes; and
  • measuring, monitoring and research that inform decisions about interventions and accountability across organisations.

In simple terms, changes to attitudes towards people with disability can be facilitated by the actions outlined below.

  1. Active presence of people with disability
  2. Leadership by people with disability
  3. Targeting multiple levels and multiple types of policy and interventions
  4. Long term approaches with adequate resources
  5. Measuring and monitoring change

Researchers also found that changes to attitudes should occur across all levels of society, including in:

  • personal perceptions held by individuals;
  • everyday interactions between individuals with and without disability; and
  • communities, organisations and governments, including schools and employment settings.

Read the report

The full report, including case studies on promoting women’s safety, culturally safe housing services, and empowering children and young people, can be found here.

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