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Attitudes Towards Disabled People in the UK: How Far Have We Come?

Posted by Mike Phipps on September 5, 2018

A lady in a wheelchair, in front of a group of trees, with another lady crouched in front of her – the pair are chatting

Photo by Judita Tamošiūnaitė from Pexels

In May 2014, the disability charity Scope highlighted the gap between people's general attitudes to disability and the reality of the lives they lead. One factor it recognised was that many people persist in applying outdated and paternalistic attitudes towards people with disabilities, despite the opinion that prejudice towards the disabled has reduced.

Ability Superstore works closely with disabled people and carers throughout the UK and recently conducted research into general attitudes and beliefs surrounding the subject of disability in the UK, as a continuation of the work carried out by Scope.

Results of the Ability Superstore Survey

Ability Superstore conducted an online survey of 152 respondents via the Google Surveys Publisher Network between the 14th and 16th August 2018. The results showed some surprising indicators.

The survey found that 22.8% of respondents know someone who is disabled. Of this total, over 19% of people have a family member with a disability, while 11.5% of respondents are disabled themselves. A total of 17.4% of respondents stated they do not know anybody with a disability, and over 11% of people have a friend or work colleague with a disability.

The survey queried whether survey respondents feel comfortable speaking with disabled people — 73.7% of those surveyed confirmed they are happy and relaxed when talking to people with disabilities.

When asked whether they would give up their seat to a disabled person on public transport over 81% of respondents said they would do so. While none of the respondents said they would not offer to do this, 12.3% said they would only if the individual looked like they needed it. This raises questions of what constitutes the appearance of a disabled person and may cause outdated stereotypes to come into play.

Finally, the study asked respondents whether they felt the UK government did enough to support people with disabilities. Unsurprisingly, over 56% of respondents felt the government did not provide enough help to the disabled. Over 22% of respondents were unsure and almost 15% of respondents felt the government did provide enough support to disabled people.


In many ways, this research seems to highlight significant ignorance surrounding disability in the UK. With less than one-quarter of survey respondents knowing people with disabilities, it's not difficult to realise how such attitudes can arise. Breaking the barriers within society that still exist for disabled people today means championing inclusion for everybody.

The fact that so many survey respondents would give up a seat on a bus or train to a person with a disability is extremely encouraging, as well as the responses that indicate that almost 75% of respondents feel comfortable talking with disabled people but clearly there is still work to be done.

Ultimately, recognising the challenges and potential discrimination that can affect people with disability is an important facet for any society and, hopefully, the UK government will go further on its path towards creating the inclusive society everybody deserves.

Ability Superstore sells a variety of mobility aids and disability equipment for individuals with a disability or who need additional support. Browse our range today and get free delivery on orders over £30.