Disabled people need more support to live independently

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21st November 2013

But a new Vitalise survey also shows less than a quarter of non-disabled people agree

A new survey, released today by national disability charity Vitalise to mark its 50th anniversary, has found broad agreement between disabled and non-disabled people on a range of different topics – with one glaring exception.

Almost half (44%) of people with disabilities called for more statutory provision from the government, in the form of welfare, benefits and other kinds of support, in order to lead independent lives in the years to come.

However, in stark contrast, they received little support for this from non-disabled people, with less than a quarter (24%) agreeing.

Vitalise is suggesting that this disparity demonstrates a clear lack of understanding on the part of the non-disabled community about the many challenges facing people with disabilities in their everyday lives and their need for increased support in order to make a more significant contribution to society.

Adding weight to Vitalise’s claim, the study found that more than half (52%) of the respondents with disabilities believed that negative attitudes towards them was the single biggest issue they faced today, with almost a fifth (16%) saying they didn’t believe they were being treated any better by society than they were 50 years ago.

A lack of independence emerged as the second biggest issue facing people with disabilities today, highlighted by over 4 in 10 (41%) of the disabled respondents.

The survey questioned equal groups of disabled and non-disabled people about the changes over the last 50 years and the challenges of the 50 years to come. It has been released today to mark Vitalise’s 50th anniversary and the start of Disability History Month (22 Nov – 22 Dec).

The findings of the study suggest that without increased support in all its forms, the struggle by people with disabilities to lead productive, dignified and independent lives could continue for years to come.

The survey also found that, despite the positive impact of the 2012 London Paralympics, only 3 out of 10 people with disabilities thought that the public’s attitude towards them had improved.

In other findings, the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 emerged as the single most significant improvement in society for people with disabilities, with over a third of disabled and non-disabled people in agreement.

When asked what needs to change to improve the lives of people with disabilities in the 50 years to come, the most votes went to increased work opportunities for people with disabilities, with over half (55%) of all those surveyed in agreement, followed closely by better attitudes from the public, with 49%.

Over a fifth of both groups surveyed wanted better and more accessible holiday opportunities for people with disabilities in the next 50 years.

In the light of the study’s findings, Vitalise is calling for a greater effort on the part of wider society to understand the challenges confronting people with disabilities in their daily lives and their need for increased statutory support in order to lead independent lives and play a more significant role in society.

Vitalise Chief Executive Chris Simmonds said:

“What this survey shows is that non-disabled people have underestimated just how many barriers people with disabilities have to overcome in their daily lives – and the amount of support they need as a result.

“Only the other week we saw press reports that David Weir, one of our greatest ever Paralympians, had been refused a home with a downstairs toilet and was forced to drag himself up the stairs whenever he needed the loo. What does this say about our understanding of the everyday needs of people with disabilities?

“Vitalise is 50 years old this year. We have spent the past five decades supporting people with disabilities, so we know that they want to lead more fulfilling lives and make a more meaningful contribution to society.

“But our worry is that this lack of understanding may lead to suspicion or even resentment towards people with disabilities and hold them back from leading dignified, independent lives. We must all work together to make sure people with disabilities are not held back from achieving their goals.”

Vitalise was founded in 1963 as the Winged Fellowship Trust by the late Joan Brander MBE. The charity created the blueprint for the modern concept of respite care in a holiday environment. Vitalise also runs one of the largest volunteering programmes of any UK charity, offering thousands of individuals each year the opportunity to support and socialise with the people with disabilitiestaking respite breaks at Vitalise’s centres.

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