In July, Maria Shriver’s foundation released The Shriver Report Snapshot: Insight into Intellectual Disabilities in the 21st Century. This report shared the results of an online poll, conducted within the United States, after surveying a total of 2,021 adults ages 18+, of whom 1,103 were identified as knowing someone with an intellectual disability. The poll was conducted by Harris Poll, on behalf of The Special Olympic Games in Partnership with Shriver Media.
The survey shows a nation in the midst of change. Overall, the survey reveals that the more than half of Americans who have personal contact with someone with intellectual disabilities are increasingly accepting and positive. It also exposes that lack of contact has left a legacy of misinformation, dated stereotypes, ignorance and fear in the other nearly half of Americans. When it comes to attitudes towards people with ID, experience is the game-changing ingredient. Despite gains in visibility, the estimated 3 to 9 million people with ID living in the United States remain isolated from the rest of society. Likely as a result of increased exposure and interaction, young adult Americans have more progressive attitudes toward, and expectations for, people with ID. Millennial women, ages 18-34, in general are the most compassionate, inclusive and progressive of any group surveyed.
- 56% of Americans personally know someone with an intellectual disability
- 42% of Americans have had no personal contact with someone with an intellectual disability
- 13% of Americans say they have a friend with an intellectual disability
- Only 5% know what it is like to work with someone with ID
- Nearly half of those who know do someone with ID (44%) say they have a family member who has an intellectual disability
The “R” Word
- 89% of Americans agree that calling someone with Down syndrome or autism a “retard” is offensive
- Nevertheless, a large number of Americans think the word “retard” can be used inoffensively in other situations. Many believe it is not offensive to call a friend a “retard” (38%) or to describe oneself that way after making a mistake (56%)
Life & Work
- Those who personally know someone with an ID are significantly more likely than those who do not know anyone with an ID to feel at least somewhat comfortable employing (84%) or working with someone with an intellectual disability (87%)
- An overwhelming majority of Americans (93%) believe that adults with intellectual disabilities should be encouraged to have jobs
- 62% believe that people with intellectual disabilities and their families should receive financial assistance from the federal government
- 84% say that adults with intellectual disabilities should be encouraged to live independently
- Still nearly 1 in 10 Americans (8%) believe that all adults with intellectual disabilities should be institutionalized
- 4 in 10 Americans (39%) believe that children with intellectual disability should not be integrated in the same classroom as other kids their age
- 26% of Americans believe that parents of children with intellectual disabilities should lower their expectations about their child’s potential for success
- 44% of Americans believe that a person with an intellectual disability who commits a crime where the death penalty is a possible sentence should be treated no differently than someone without an intellectual disability
- 22% believe that adults with intellectual disabilities should not be allowed to vote in elections
- 53% of Americans are comfortable with the idea of having their child date someone with an intellectual disability
- 91% said they would expect at least some parents to terminate a pregnancy or give the child up for adoption if they found out their child had an ID, but only 18% said that most would end pregnancy or give up the child
While I was pleased to read some of the statistics, I was quite frankly shocked by others. We certainly have come a long way in our attitudes towards individuals with intellectual disabilities. However, it is up to us to assure that we continue and expand our educational programs so that 100% of our society is compassionate, accepting, and understanding of persons with intellectual disabilities. The challenge is ours!