Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Prejudices against, and Social Responsibilities towards, the Disabled

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Prejudices against, and Social Responsibilities towards, the Disabled

Article excerpt

Common prejudices disguised in various forms against the disabled are discussed in this paper. Specifically, it was investigated whether socially responsible behaviors can be stimulated by providing information about the life conditions of the disabled. Two hypotheses were proposed and tested. Alterations in the nondisabled participants' perception of the disabled were evaluated through analysis of the results with regard to age, level of education, and income. Furthermore, relations between the independent variables and the tendency to participate in social activities which can be regarded as socially responsible behaviors were investigated. Results show that Turkish society could pay more attention to the questions of how life conditions of the disabled can be improved and how they can be enabled to participate more in social life. In particular, members of society should revise aspects of their perception of the disabled that are incorrect or ill informed.

Keywords: disability, prejudices, social life, exclusion mechanisms, social responsibility behaviors.

It would seem that social prejudice is one of the elements alienating the disabled from social life in Turkey. About 12.3 percent of Turkey's population is disabled, a figure that is above the world average (Republic of Turkey State Institute of Statistics [SIS], 2002). There are indications that disabled people in Turkey are excluded from society, and these are found in almost every area from the physical environment to legal rights, and from definition of disability to the dependency of the disabled on institutions.

Attempts to help people with disabilities make the best possible adaptation to society and to make the rest of society treat them as equal partners are still limited. Even the rare attempts in their favor may be considered a special kind of exclusion. For instance, the media coverage in Turkey reporting on people with disabilities implies an exclusion by sending a particular message to them: either be like us and take your place among us or stay where you are!

This study was premised on the facts that: a) occurrence of positive changes in the lives of the disabled depends in part on the response of the nondisabled towards these changes in people with disabilities, and b) facilitation of prosocial behaviors towards people with disabilities (Bierhof, 2002) depends also on able bodied people's having knowledge about disabilities.

PREJUDICES AGAINST PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

The population of Turkey is estimated to rise from 72 million to 100 million by the year 2030 (SIS, 2005). The number of people with disabilities, on the other hand, is estimated to rise from 9 to 13 million in this period. Terms such as handicapped, lame, and paralyzed, referring to a person with a disability, categorizes him or her as a member of a marginal group (Hradil, 1999) in Turkey.

Prejudice both prevents people with disabilities from taking part in society and limits the facilitation of prosocial behaviors (Bierhof, 2002). In Turkey, although it is not expressed openly, as stated in the time of Socrates, children with disabilities are still seen as worthless (Hensle, 1979; Kuhn, 1977). Moreover, compared to a male with or without disability, a female with disability always experiences more disadvantages (Schopmans, 1996). The attitudes and behaviors of people without disabilities towards those with disabilities have been examined by many researchers, and although there have been some positive changes, existence of prejudices in Turkey was proven (Truster, 1990). Although the reactions displayed within the social environment incorporate a complex network of reasons, the underlying factors have not yet been examined in detail in Turkish society. Society's acceptance of the status quo in any social condition is a tacit reaction against that condition (Reinhold, 1991). Therefore, the largely negative attitude of Turkish society towards disabled people can be interpreted as an indication of their exclusion from society. …

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