protester in a wheelchair holding a sign saying Cut the Curbs

Independent Living

Introduction > History > What is a CIL? > Changing Attitudes

Introduction > Test > Background > Tips > Attitudinal Barriers > Stories


People with disabilities face many barriers every day - from physical obstacles in buildings to systemic barriers in employment and civic programs. Yet often, the most difficult barriers to overcome are attitudes other people have regarding people with disabilities. Whether born from ignorance, fear, misunderstanding or hate, these attitudes keep people from appreciating and experiencing the full potential of a person with a disability.

One of the most pervasive negative attitudes is focusing on an individual's disabilities rather than their abilities.

A lawyer is effective if he or she has a solid grasp of law and can present a complete case before a jury or judge; that a lawyer accesses law books through a Kurzweil reader because he or she is blind is immaterial to the job.

A rancher is effective if she or he feeds the cattle and mends the fences; that a rancher with paraplegia operates a cattle feeder system in the bed of a truck via a rod or rides an all-terrain vehicle to reach fences is immaterial to the job.

A stocker in a factory is effective if he or she packages the proper number of items in each bin; that a stocker with a developmental disability limiting attention span uses a counting device is immaterial to the job. In fact, that stocker can be - and has been - the most accurate stocker on the factory floor.

A common attitudinal barrier is society's expectation that people with disabilities can't perform up to standard, or if they do, they are somehow courageous. This attitude has the effect of patronizing people with disabilities, usually relegating them to low-skill jobs; setting different job standards (sometimes lower standards, which can alienate co-workers or sometimes higher standards, which can make it difficult to handle a job); and expecting a worker with a disability to appreciate any opportunity to work and not demand equal pay, equal benefits, equal opportunity and equal access to workplace amenities.

Next: Changing Attitudes - Take the Test

Mountain State Centers for Independent Living