Interactions with people with disabilities improve attitudes

By Ozge Caman, M.D., PhD
Department of Public Health,
Faculty of Medicine, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey

In Turkey 12.3% of the population has some form of disability. Municipalities have a crucial role and responsibility in adopting measures to ensure that urban spaces, buildings, and public services are fully accessible to everyone including people with disabilities. The aim of this study was to determine the attitudes of municipal employees toward people with disabilities.

What did you do in your research?
We surveyed 338 employees 20-65 years old, (58% male), working for a major municipality in Ankara, the capital of Turkey. The attitudes of the municipal employees towards persons with disabilities were assessed using the Attitude towards Persons with Disabilities Scale (ATPDS). We also asked questions about sociodemographics, presence of disability among the participants and their acquaintances, experience caring for persons with disability, and an open-ended question on personal feelings toward persons with disabilities.

What did you find out?
Among the participants themselves, 5.1% had some type of disability (impaired mobility, visual impairment, disabling chronic illness etc.) and 15% had at least one family member with a disability. Pity was the most common feeling toward persons with disabilities (31%). The attitudes of the employees with a family member or a friend with a disability, as well as those of the employees that had cared for a person with a disability were more favorable than their counterparts. The most widely agreed to statement (86.0%) indicating a positive attitude toward persons with disabilities was the ATPDS item stating “I think that persons with disabilities can be successful in many ways”, whereas the most widely agreed to negative statement (23.6%) was “I would not want to be married to a person with a disability under any circumstances”.

What are the take-home messages?
The study showed that close contact and interaction with persons with disabilities improve attitudes. Future study that will aim to increase awareness and interactions with people with disabilities may improve the attitudes of municipal employees, and consequently improve the services municipalities provide to persons with disabilities.

To learn more about these findings contact Ozge Caman.

Full Journal Article
Erbaydar, N. P., Caman, O. K., & Cilingiroglu, N. (2013). How do municipality employees in Ankara approach persons with disabilities? Disability and Health Journal, 6(4), 391-398.