Published On: Mon, Oct 23rd, 2023

Millions of Brits don’t act themselves around disabled people, study finds


Millions of Brits admit they don’t act themselves when in the company of someone disabled, research has found. A study of 2,000 adults revealed that, of the 56 percent who aren’t disabled themselves, or don’t have a relative that is, 77 percent rarely or never interact with someone with a disability.

And as a result, 57 percent admit their unfamiliarity means they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, or they feel self-conscious of their behaviour (44 percent).

One in five have jumped in to offer help they weren’t asked for, and 14 percent have made assumptions which may not be correct.

Only 12 percent of families raising a disabled or seriously ill child say they are able to take part in all the social activities they’d like to – causing 83 percent to feel sad, left out, and frustrated.

The research, commissioned by McCain and grant-making charity Family Fund, also found one in six (17 percent) have regretted how they’ve behaved around someone disabled – either in the way they have spoken, or by saying the wrong thing.

Of the 31 percent of parents polled, 74 percent would feel confident hosting a disabled child at their home for a playdate or an event. However, 23 percent would be nervous having them over for dinner – with 38 percent feeling they are not equipped to host a mealtime.

Following the study, McCain and Family Fund have collaborated with presenter and comedian, Alex Brooker, to promote more inclusive social occasions, and launch a specially-designed, limited-edition scoop bowl.

Mark Hodge, from McCain Foods UK&I, said: “Mealtimes are a crucial moment for friends and family to come together.

“This new data offers an important insight into why families raising a disabled or seriously ill child can feel excluded from such social occasions, due to a lack of awareness of their child’s needs, or embarrassment to ask for support for these needs.

“We want to make everyday meals more inclusive for everyone – so we’re delighted to have created this specially-designed scoop bowl, to ensure that families can better enjoy mealtimes together.”

Alex Brooker added: “This bowl is something I wished I had growing up – it’s a great design, and I think it will really help children feel more independent at mealtimes, and give parents confidence to socialize more at social occasions.”

It also emerged that, of those who don’t know anyone disabled, 64 percent admit to having little-to-no understanding of what day-to-day life is like for them.

However, 48 percent would like to boost their own confidence when it comes to spending time with disabled people, and 72 percent of all respondents believed more public awareness is needed around what life is like for them.

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) also suspected October half-term could be a difficult time for families raising a disabled or seriously ill child, as they could be less likely to be invited to social occasions by their friends.

Family Fund carried out a separate survey of 1,202 families it has supported with a grant in the past nine to 12 months, and found that 67 percent had experienced friends and family being embarrassed to ask about any possible adaptations required so their disabled child could attend an event.

However, 63 percent of families reckon asking about their child’s needs and preferences in advance would alleviate any need for concern ahead of a social occasion.

Cheryl Ward, chief executive of Family Fund, added: “Families raising a disabled or seriously ill child experience many barriers to participating in activities and events, due to the daily routines and equipment children need, continuous high costs, and a lack of affordable inclusive opportunities.

“Creating inclusive mealtime moments in communities, and being aware of the challenges families face, can make a big difference to people’s lives – with Alex shining a spotlight on this.

“We are now providing even more essential mealtime grants to families who need them most.”



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