Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Changing Attitudes: We All Need to Learn

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Changing Attitudes: We All Need to Learn

Article excerpt

In a presidential debate, H. Ross Perot said that the national debt was like "a crazy aunt we keep down in the basement. All the neighbors know she's there, but nobody wants to talk about her." Justin Dart, Executive Director of the President's Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities, wrote to Mr. Perot and pointed out that his statement reflected "a negative, stereotypical perception that is the basis of millions of civil rights violations, thousands of suicides, widespread homelessness and massive unemployment."

We know that Mr. Perot had not intended to hurt anyone. All of us can make comments about people with disabilities that reflect attitudes learned while we were growing up. Even though our behavior toward and relationships with individuals with disabilities have changed, we can be surprised how old stereotypes persist within us. We may be further surprised at how often we may unwittingly find ourselves still behaving as if our old images and ideas are relevant in contemporary society.

Sometimes, we wonder just how much attitudes have changed and whether the new opportunities required by legislation will disappear. It can be discouraging when thousands of children with disabilities are still educated in separate classes without opportunities to interact with peers, when public debate continues about the value of financial support to educate children with disabilities, or when business costs are blamed on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Fortunately, our experiences do indicate that attitudes are changing and many people are trying to ensure that people of all ages with disabilities can truly participate in community life. There are specific, noticeable changes in the accessibility of buses and parks, churches and synagogues, theaters and restaurants, shopping malls and small neighborhood shops. And children and adults with disabilities are responding to these community invitations by traveling, worshipping, dining and shopping alongside their fellow citizens.

Attitude changes are also evident in the media. When Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street began to include children with disabilities over 20 years ago, few could have predicted the acceptability of disability-related themes in the media by adults. And when Life Goes On first appeared on ABC-TV, many media experts questioned whether a weekly program about a family that included a youngster with Down syndrome (actually played by an actor with Down syndrome) would have any lasting appeal to viewers or sponsors. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.