Hey again everyone!
For my second round of research, I will be furthering my topic by looking into the stigma that surrounds developmental disability, and will be analyzing how it came to be.
As we have discussed in my previous round of research, developmental disabilities can severely hinder a person's ability to conform and to adapt in social settings, can cause health problems, and can, generally, make life that much harder for those affected. However, this would be manageable - albeit not ideal - if there wasn't such a crippling stigma surrounding developmental disabilities as a whole. People, in general, fear what they don't understand, and the majority of people do not understand these disabilities. We feel that we cannot treat people with disorders the way that we would treat others, because we feel that just because they are different, they are weaker and need to be pitied. This, however, is not true at all. Yes, these people function differently and do need special support, but more than anything, they need acceptance; something that is sorely lacking in today's public.
A study was conducted in 2004 by Jahoda and Markova, researchers from the University of Glasgow, in which the authors conducted interviews with 18 subjects moving from a long-stay institution and 10 subjects transitioning from their family home to live more independently. All subjects believed that they had experienced stigmatized treatment and were all aware of stigma associated with developmental disability. The authors concluded that "a lack of social acceptance was an area of major concern for these individuals." (1,2)
But, where did this stigmatized treatment come from? In the past, it was common practice to label people with developmental disabilities as "mentally retarded" and place them in institutions or segregated schools, where they had few rights. This institutionalization began more than a hundred years ago in BC with the creation of an institution in New Westminster, first called the Provincial Asylum for the Insane and later known as Woodlands School, which was soon followed by other institutions like it, such as Tranquille, Glendale, and the Endicott Centre. People with developmental disabilities lived in these facilities apart from their families and communities, sometimes for their whole lives. In these institutions, instead of receiving care and support, people with these disabilities were isolated, and in many cases, were treated like prisoners. Fortunately, times are changing, and people with disabilities are now being supported and acknowledged more fully and frequently. There is still work to be done, however. (3,4)
One of the most critical problems that people with developmental disabilities face is the search for employment. For people with developmental disabilities, it can be incredibly difficult to find secure, well-paying jobs. Fortunately, there are agencies for employers to reach out to individuals with disabilities to offer employment (Aspire Developmental Services, work.chron.com, etc.) (5,6), however for many business owners, it can be difficult. This is because, as I previously mentioned, people fear what they do not understand, which can pose problems for the people with disabilities in need of employment, not only financially, but psychologically as well. Looking for a job, or being terminated from a previous job can be a very stressful experience, especially when discrimination and misunderstanding is often the reason that employment is so scarce. Knowing that the reason you're struggling is because of an inherent, invariable part of you, I imagine, would be awful.
A study was conducted by Pauline Banks, Andrew Jahoda, Dave Dagnan, John Kemp, and Victoria Williams in which forty-nine people with intellectual and developmental disorders were interviewed within 3 months of entering supported employment and 9–12 months later. By time of the follow-up interviews, 13 of the 49 jobs had broken down. Analysis of scores measuring quality of life, anxiety and depression showed no effect for loss of employment, however, interviews with participants indicated that job loss had a considerable impact on those affected. (7) So, we know that employment is scarce for people with developmental disabilities, and we know that losing a job can be traumatic. But now we must ask the real question: are these people capable of actually doing a job to the capacity that other, neurotypical people would? The answer, in many cases, is yes. Employers from multiple sources (8,9) have stated that hiring a developmentally disabled person has really benefited their establishment. According to these sources, these employees are exceptionally hard-working, very loyal, and incredibly dedicated to improving and performing to the standards of a "regular" staff member. Here is a video which highlights the perspectives of developmentally disabled employees' working experience, as well as their bosses': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCa02lgV0I0
In conclusion, we must stop depriving these people, who just want to be treated as the intelligent, unique individuals that they are, of opportunity to showcase their talent and their drive. We must not let ourselves give into the fear of what we don't know, and we must reach out and collaborate with people with disabilities, so that we can become more socially-conscious, well-rounded people. After all, depriving another of an opportunity is really depriving ourselves of learning and broadening our horizons, and if we want to move forwards as a society and as people, we must first allow all members of that society equal opportunity.
My sources for this research round were:
For my next round of research, I will be discussing how developmental disabilities are represented in the media and in other cultures; looking into how their image has come to be. I will also be discussing how we can support people with these disabilities in social or academic settings.
Thank you all for reading! If anyone has any comments, critiques, or suggestions, I would greatly appreciate any feedback!