Europeans Most Open to Those with Intellectual Disabilities Education may play a role in receptivity

Gallup surveys in 112 countries in 2010 show people's perceptions of how receptive their communities are to those with intellectual disabilities vary worldwide. More than half of adults (55%) with an opinion on the matter say the city or area where they live is a good place for people with intellectual disabilities. Perceived receptivity is highest in Europe, where 80% say their communities are good for people with intellectual disabilities, and lowest in the former Soviet Union (47%) and Asia (46%).

In consultation with the Special Olympics, which has extensively studied the challenges that people with intellectual disabilities face, Gallup began measuring global perceptions of receptivity toward this group in 2010. These data provide a first look at these perceptions and reveal important differences within regions.

In the Middle East and North Africa, for example, 50% of those with an opinion region-wide say their communities are good places for people with intellectual disabilities. Within the region, as few as 24% of Yemenis say where they live is a good place and as many as 79% of Syrians say this. In Europe, where perceived receptivity is generally high, 52% in Bulgaria say where they live is a good place for people with intellectual disabilities and 91% say this in the Netherlands.

More Educated Perceive More Receptivity Where They Live
Education plays some role in people's perceptions of their communities' receptivity to those with intellectual disabilities, even after one's income is considered. Respondents with at least some secondary education are much more likely than those with less education to say where they live is a good place for people with intellectual disabilities. Less than half of the least educated group say this compared with two-thirds of those with at least four years of tertiary education and 63% for the middle education group. Perceptions of receptivity were not meaningfully different between the sexes or by age after one's income and education were accounted for.

It is unclear from the data whether more education leads to more receptivity to people with intellectual disabilities itself, or just the perception of it. What is clear is that much needs to be done in many areas of the world to improve how receptive communities are to these valued members of society. Residents' assessments of whether the area they live in is a good place for people with intellectual disabilities are an important part of the ongoing research in this area.

By Cynthia English and Gale Muller