to Senior Theses
of the physically disabled among college students from private vs.public
Thank you for visiting my site. I would first and foremost like to thank
the Massachusetts Hospital School for inspiring my thesis topic.
The experiences I have shared there over the past two years not only influenced
my research, but also opened my eyes to my true calling in life.
Also, I would like to thank my two confederates, Kerry and Joe. It
was an awkward request and both of you were real troopers. I cannot
thank you enough for your help.
I would like to thank Dr. Richard Antonak for generously granting me permission
to use his Scale of Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons (SADP), and to Nicole
Dionne for helping me get in touch with him.
A special thanks goes out to Professor Ossoff who held my hand throughout
this whole process. I know it was probably painful at times, but
I would not have known what I was doing without your guidanc
I would like to thank all of the psychology seniors. It seemed that
whenever anyone was in need of advice or a little encouragement there was
always someone there to lend a shoulder or offer a hug. I felt as
though we really worked as a team. It is finally done! Congratulations
of this study is to determine whether active exposure to persons with a
physical disability will influence college students to express a more favorable
attitude toward disabled persons in general. Research suggests that
previous interaction serves a significant role in shaping people’s attitudes
toward the disabled. It had also been suggested that when experiencing
direct contact with a disabled person people would express socially desirable
attitudes about the disabled. In the present study, four groups of
students and two confederates were asked to complete the Scale of Attitudes
Toward Disabled Persons (SADP), which is used to measure perceptions of
the physically disabled (Antonak, 1981). Questions regarding the participant’s
gender, previous interaction with persons with physical disabilities, and
educational history (private or public high school education) were also
included within the questionnaire. Two of the four groups were control
groups. The other two groups had a confederate present with a visible
disability. Results indicated that previous interaction had a significant
influence on attitudes, but the educational history did not have the anticipated
effect. Surprisingly, gender of the confederate was found to have
a significant influence on whether the participants expressed favorable
attitudes toward the disabled. Further studies focusing on the influence
of gender, and perhaps the nature of the contact with the disabled need
to be conducted should be explored.
Key Words: Physically Disabled,
Perceptions, Scale of Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons (SADP), Previous
Interaction, Public School, Private School
years ago there was a controversy surrounding a statue intended to honor
former president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The
disagreement was over the fact that the artist depicted the President seated,
his lap draped in a blanket with a segment of his wheelchair exposed.
Although it is common knowledge today that F.D.R. suffered from Polio and
was left paralyzed as a result, people were concerned that having him portrayed
with his disability would promote an association of weakness with the late
President. Those who supported the representation of the President
viewed it as a symbol of strength that one of the United States’ greatest
leaders could overcome such a monumental obstacle. Public attitudes
toward persons with physical disabilities slowly began to shift toward
a more favorable view after World War II when soldiers returning from war
were in need of prosthetic devices (Beilke & Yssel, 1999). However,
with all of the pressure to be regarded as non-prejudiced toward people
with physical disabilities the disagreement over the F.D.R. statue supports
the notion that perceptions of the disabled have not changed as much as
Studies on the perceptions and attitudes toward the physically disabled
have been a topic of discussion for years. Common among studies is the
repeated exposure of non-disabled participants to disabled ones (Donaldson
& Martinson, 1977; Esposito & Peach, 1983; Fichten & Bourdon,
1986; Newberry & Parish, 1987; Troster, Hecker & Schulte, 1991).
These studies support the hypothesis that early childhood exposure to persons
with disabilities can foster a less stereotypic attitude toward adults
with physical disabilities as the children mature. The purpose of
the present study is to assess how college students perceive their physically
disabled peers while taking onto consideration a degree of prior exposure
associated with the type of high school the participants went to school.
Studies have shown that people who attended private institutions tended
to have more negative perceptions of the physically disabled (Lehrer, 1983),
possibly because they had less exposure to the disabled at these private
The perceptual distinction that can arise from being exposed to a private
or public educational environment can begin at extremely early ages.
In a study conducted by Esposito & Peach (1983) 4 mentally retarded/physically
disabled children from a public school were integrated into a private school
setting with 9 non-disabled preschoolers for one hour per week over an
eight month period. The children were placed in situations that encouraged
activities meant to promote social interaction. A total of twenty-one
sessions were conducted over thirty weeks. The Primary Student Survey
of Handicapped Peers (PSSHP) was developed for this study when it became
apparent that no current scale was appropriate for testing very young children.
The PSSHP is a six-question oral exam suitable for non-literate children.
Results showed that greater exposure to the disabled was associated with
more favorable attitudes by the non-disabled children. This study
serves as support for the early exposure theory.
In a related study researching early childhood exposure to the physically
disabled (Lehrer, 1983), children were observed receiving indirect instead
of direct exposure to a disabled individual. A story about a physically
disabled boy was read to a group of fourth grade children in a classroom
setting. The group was complied of 28 subjects from a mainstreamed
or public classroom and 29 from a non-mainstreamed or private classroom.
Prior to the study, there were no physically disabled students in the private
classroom, and no official mainstreaming program at the control school.
In the study, 10 characteristics were associated with the disabled boy
in the story (acquisition items) and 8 novel characteristics (distractor
items) that were implemented in a recognition memory task. The error
rate made in the memory task reflected how much the acquisition and distractor
items compared with mainstreamed and non-mainstreamed perceptions of the
disabled. Results showed that the public school participants made
fewer errors than private school subjects. This supports the idea
that a less stereotypic schema exists among students who received a public
education given their greateexposure to the disabled. The older the
privately educated students get, the less exposure they have to people
with disabilities, and therefore by the time they reach college their perceptions
may be extremely stereotypic.Taken together the studies seem to support
the idea that repeated exposure to the physically disabled decreases the
likelihood of children forming stereotypic perceptions of the disabled.
It is what happens when these stereotypes are carried over into adulthood
that inspired the current study.
In studies conducted with adults who assess their disabled peers, it has
been suggested that able-bodied adults avoid interaction with the disabled
because they are perceived by the able-bodied as socially and emotionally
different due to their physical differences (Fichten & Bourdon, 1986).
A single disability is associated with affecting all dimensions of a person.
Weinburg (1976) conducted a study in which 372 participants were given
a questionnaire consisting of items used to describe personality or attitude
dimensions. These dimensions were presented along with examples of
people who possessed varying degrees of disability. The results showed
that the more extensive the degree of the disability the less attractive
and more dependent the person was described as being. These findings
indicate that the differences associated with the physically disabled point
in a significantly negative direction, in that, they are seen as less interactively
attractive than an able-bodied person. What is most striking about
this study is that most participants probably had prior exposure to a physically
disabled person. The university in which participants were enrolled
in had 200 physically disabled students on campus. Even with a history
of interaction able-bodied persons were unable to avoid stereotyping.
These results lead the current study to consider whether the presence of
a peer with a physical disability would prompt a non-disabled person to
alter their negative perceptions. Unlike the Weinburg study, previous
interaction alone was not used to elicit favorable attitudes. A combination
of previous interaction with direct exposure to a confederate with a disability
was implimented. In a related study conducted by Troster, Hecker
& Schulte (1991), it was shown that non-disabled persons preferred
a physically disabled partner in a social interaction to a non-disabled
partner, but only when under known observation. The study was used
to test whether a “sympathy effect of physical handicap” is based on tendencies
of impression management. Subjects were given a choice of scenarios,
either to sit with a visibly disabled individual while viewing a film or
not to sit with them. Public responsibility was manipulated by giving
the subjects the freedom to choose whether seating would be public or private.
The results indicated that subjects only preferred the disabled partner
when outside observation was expected. In the private situation subjects
chose not to sit with a disabled partner. This suggests that non-disabled
persons try to exhibit a positive attitude toward the disabled when the
“reward” of recognition is anticipated. In the current study an observer
was present in the form of the test administrator, but the questionnaires
were anonymous. It was anticipated that the presence of the administrator
combined with the confederate would be enough to provoke positive perceptions
from the participants. The “reward” in the present study would be
the sense of self-satisfaction associated with acting in a socially desirable
manner. It was rationalized that the combination of the instructor
and the confederate would prompt situational cues for the participants
to act how they deemed as desirable, in other words, with more favorable
attitudes. This investigator believes that favorable attitudes will by
evoked because research has shown that most non-disabled people try to
express attitudes and opinions that will be received favorably by disabled
persons with whom they interact (Makas, 1988), but in many cases these
attitudes can be received as condescending or false. The Makas study
(1988) involved three groups consisting of 92 disabled respondents, 69
“good-attitudes” non-disabled respondents, and 83 non-disabled respondents.
All participants completed the Issues in Disability Scale (IDS), which
address attitudes toward people with disabilities in a variety of settings.
The disabled participants were asked to complete the IDS how they felt
was the most positive manner. The remaining two groups were asked
to complete it honestly. Results of the study showed that the disabled
and non-disabled differ significantly on what was considered a most positive
manner in that the non-disabled viewed positive attitudes as nice and helpful,
but that the disabled were needy.
Ignorance of the proper ways in which to interact with the disabled can
have a profound effect on future interactions between the disabled and
non-disabled. In a study by Dobson & Bost (1985), 39 schoolteachers
of various positions assessed the seriousness and recommended treatments
for behavior problems of six hypothetical students who might be found in
mainstreamed classrooms. Teachers perceived the behavior problems
exhibited by non-disabled and/or physically disabled students as more serious
than similar problems displayed by mentally disabled students. Also,
the treatments recommended for the non-disabled students tended to be more
authoritarian than those recommended for the physically and mentally disabled
students. The results of this study indicate that teachers need to
be trained in skills for handling behavior problems with disabled as well
as non-disabled students. This supports the notion that people tend
to express unwarranted empathy toward the physically disabled. The
ladder two studies support the prediction that these reactions will manifest
in the current study through direct exposure to the disabled confederate.
The unwarranted empathy will be expressed as favorable attitudes from the
two experimental groups.
For many disabled students the college experience is their first encounter
with the non-disabled world. In a study by Fichten & Bourdon
(1986), three groups of participants were gathered: one consisted of wheelchair
bound individuals, the second consisted of a group without disabilities
but with a history of significant contact with the disabled, and the third
included a group without disabilities who did not have a history of contact
with the disabled. They were all given a social interaction questionnaire
that consisted of frequently occurring situations involving social interaction
and common behaviors in academic settings between non-disabled and disabled
students. Results indicated that disabled students rated behaviors
of non-disabled students significantly higher than did non-disabled groups.
All groups ranked their own behavior critically. Both groups deemed
the behavior of the other group as inappropriate rather than discriminatory,
and it occurred with students who had little or no previous contact with
College and University faculty are not exempt from exhibiting stereotypical
behaviors toward the disabled. Higher education staff was found to
be cordial enough, but students with special needs encountered a less than
positive learning environment (Beilke & Yssel, 1999). Studies
have shown that post-secondary facilities accommodate students in a physical
manner but the administration and faculty seem to lack information and
understanding of what it means to have a pupil with a disability.
Beilke & Yssel’s (1999) study involved interviewing 10 undergraduate
students with disabilities ranging from spina bifida and cerebral palsy
to learning disabilities. Results from these interviews showed that
the students with visible disabilities reported a more rewarding educational
experience than did students with non-visible disabilities. However,
subtle behaviors such as being ignored and/or interrupted by the faculty,
professors maintaining physical distance, avoiding eye contact, offering
little guidance and criticism and attributing success to factors other
than ability were reported as occurring more frequently in the visibly
disabled group. This study suggests that the negative attitudes of
some professors may play a significant role in determining whether physically
disabled students fail or succeed in higher education. This is pertinent
because college students look toward their professors as mentors; therefore
their perceptions not only affect their disabled students, but can also
affect their non-disabled students reactions toward the disabled.
I hypothesize that when required to express their opinions toward the physically
disabled, college students will alter their attitudes toward more positive
opinions when directly exposed to a peer with a visible disability.
Students will answer more truthfully within the company of non-disabled
peers as opposed to the more politically correct answer while in the presence
of the a disabled peer.
Undergraduate students at a small liberal arts college in the Northeast
participated in the study. The sample consisted of 43 non-physically
disabled students between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two, 10 males
and 33 females. The students were predominately Caucasian and varied
from freshman to seniors. All of the participants were enrolled in
a general psychology and/or general biology course. Also involved
in the study were two confederates; one male and one female, both 21 years
old, posing as physically disabled peers.
The Scale of Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons (SADP) was used as a dependent
measure (see Appendix A for sample statements). The SADP is a 24-item
summated rating scale used to measure global attitudes toward people with
disabilities. The questionnaire requires the participant to rate
each statement on a six-point scale ranging from –3 (“I strongly disagree”)
to +3 (“I strongly agree”). There is no neutral response option.
Half of the statements are worded so that an agree response (+3, +2, +1)
represent a favorable attitude, and half of the statements are worded so
that a disagree response (-3, -2, -1) represent afavorable attitude.
The responses are scored in the direction of a positive attitude then summed.
A constant is added to the sum to eliminate negative scores, with a higher
score indicating a more positive view towards people with a physical disability
as a whole.
Questions regarding the participant’s gender, type of high school they
had attended, and previous contact with disabled people were also administered
The 43 participants were divided into four experimental groups. The
second and fourth groups completed the SADP and personal history questions
and were permitted to leave. The first and third groups completed
the same questionnaires but were exposed to a confederate posing as a peer
with a physical disability participating in the same study.
The confederates consisted of one male and one female non-disabled student.
Both confederates were ambulatory, but enlisted the aid of forearm crutches
and mimicked a gate similar to that of a person with cerebral palsy.
The first group included 10 participants and a female confederate, and
the third group included 10 participants and a male confederate.
The confederates entered the experiment room a few minutes after the participants
to increase awareness of their presence. The confederates were also
present in the two control groups but did not display any signs of a disability.
The first control group consisted of 12 participants and the second control
group consisted of 11 participants.
Participants were told that the study was to assess performance appraisal
of the physically disabled. The same directions were given verbally
to the participants by the instructor as well as printed on the questionnaires’
themselves. Each group was allotted as much time needed to complete
the survey. After the questionnaires were collected each participant
received a sheet debriefing them on the experiment (Appendix C).
of this study was that students who had attended public high schools would
have a greater prior interaction rate with the physically disabled than
students who had attended private high schools and therefore have more
positive attitudes towards this group. The previous interactions experienced
by the two groups were intended to support the theory that the more exposure
to a person with a visible disability the more favorable their attitudes
would be (Chesler, 1965; Esposito & Peach, 1983; Gosse & Sheppard,
1979; Kowalski & Rizzo, 1996; Lehrer, 1983).Direct exposure to a person
with a physical disability was created via the use of confederates posing
as persons with a permanent physical disability and was intended to elicit
more favorable attitudes as well. Independent variables included
gender, previous interaction with the physically disabled, and type of
high school participants attended (private or public) and gender of the
confederate with a disability. The primary dependent variable was
scored using analyses including descriptive statistics, analysis of variance,
and post-hoc tests.
question to assess previous exposure to the disabled served as a manipulation
check. Participants were categorized as either those who have had
high, moderate or low interaction with the physically disabled. From
the pool of 12 privately schooled participants, 66.6% of them reported
high to moderate previous interaction with the physically disabled.
Among the 30 publicly schooled participants, 60% of them reported low to
no previous interaction with the physically disabled. These frequencies
are in the opposite direction of what was hypothesized about the amount
of exposure experienced through a person’s type of school. For the
remainder of the analyses the question of level of contact and not school
type was used to identify the high exposure group from the low exposure
of confederate) x 2(condition: confederate/ control) x 3(previous interaction:
high, moderate, low) an ANOVA was done on the total SADP score. Results
indicated that gender of the confederate made a significant difference
with more positive attitudes elicited by the male confederate. The
mean for male confederate was 110.7 while the mean for female confederate
main effect was found concerning previous interaction F(2,12) = 4.47, p
< .05. The means indicate that those with more exposure to the
disabled had more positive attitudes (see table 1). Also, a near
significant condition by gender of confederate interaction was found F(1,12)
= 4.35, p < .059. These findings suggest that the group that expressed
the most favorable attitudes toward persons with physical disabilities
was the control male group with a mean of 117.4. The results also
indicate that the group that expressed the least favorable attitudes toward
the physically disabled was the control female group with a mean of 99.6.
These findings were not consistent with the direction of the hypothesis.
(see table 2).
Mean SADP scores for main effect
of level of previous interaction for the 2(gender of confederate) x 2(condition:
confederate/control) x 3(level of previous interaction: high, moderate,
Level of previous
Note. Higher scores
indicate more positive attitudes.
Lastly, a significant
3-way interaction was found for gender of confederate, level of previous
interaction, and condition (F(2,12) = 4.10, p < .05) was found.
These means indicate that it is the female confederate in the control condition
that elicits attitudes opposite to what one would expect, with less favorable
attitudes reported by these with more previous interaction (see table 3).
Mean SADP scores for the interaction
of gender of confederate by condition for the 2(gender of confederate)
x 2(condition: confederate/control) x 3(level of previous interaction:
high, moderate, low) ANOVA
Gender of confederate
Note. Higher numbers
indicate more positive scores
Although the presumption
that private schools provide less exposure to the physically disabled than
public schools was not supported by the results of the experiment, the
hypothesis that previous exposure promotes more favorable attitudes toward
the disabled was in fact supported.
Mean SADP scores for the interaction
of gender of confederate by condition by level of previous interaction
for the 2(gender of confederate) x 2(condition: confederate/control) x
3(level of previous interaction: high, moderate, low) ANOVA
High 124.00 (SE= 9.3)
Mod. 91.00 (SE= 9.3)
Low 97.00 (SE= 5.37)
High 123.33 (SE= 5.37)
Mod. 122.00 (SE= 5.37)
Low 107.00 (SE= 6.57)
High 114.00 (SE= 9.3)
Mod. 112.50 (SE= 6.57)
Low 84.50 (SE= 6.57)
High 95.33 (SE= 5.37)
Mod. 97.50 (SE= 6.57)
Low 106.00 (SE= 9.23)
Note. Mod. means Moderate
speaking, the results indicated that previous interaction is an important
factor in developing favorable attitudes toward the disabled. The
participants that reported low to no previous interaction displayed the
least favorable attitudes toward the disabled. The participants that
reported high to moderate previous interaction expressed the more favorable
What was not confirmed in this study was the assumption that students from
public high schools would have experienced more interaction with the disabled
than those from private schools. The results showed that 66.6% of
the 12 private school students reported high to moderate interaction with
the disabled, while only 40% of the 30 public school students reported
high to moderate interaction. Only 38 of the 43 participants’ scores
were calculated because the remainders were not completed properly.
Also, the two populations were not represented as equally as was expected
with only 12 participants from private schools and 30 from public.
When gender has been researched on the measurement of attitudes toward
the disabled, studies have shown that females generally express more favorable
attitudes than males (Chesler, 1965; Gosse & Sheppard, 1979; MacLean
& Gannon, 1995; Martinez & Sewell, 2000). In the current
study only 10 men participated with 33 women. Therefore, gender was
not as evenly distributed as was intended. The group exposed to the
confederate female consisted of 6 females and 4 males. The control
female group included 10 females and 2 males. The confederate male
group consisted of 6 females with 4 males, and the control male group was
made up of 11 females. This issue of gender will be discussed further.
The participants exposed to the disabled confederates were not significantly
affected by his or her presence, however there was a significant interaction
between gender of confederate and the presence or absence of him or her.
The condition that yielded the highest scores was the control male group
while those exposed to the control female confederate expressed the least
favorable attitudes. It is important to note that these are not necessarily
negative attitudes, just more stereotypic attitudes. The confederate
male and female groups showed means of 104 and 103.7, respectively, which
indicates a favorable attitude.
When looking at the gender of the confederate, the study yielded surprising
results. Scores indicated that the confederate male elicited slightly
more positive attitudes than the female confederate. This is inconsistent
with the previous research, which has shown that females with a disability
tend to elicit more favorable attitudes (Bruce, Harman & Baker, 2000;
Martinez & Sewell, 2000). What were surprising were the results
of the 3-way interaction between gender of the confederate, which condition
they were exposed to and the previous interaction reported by the participant.
The female control and female confederate conditions were the most interesting
because they were opposite to what is suggested by previous research, which
supports the notion that females express a more favorable attitude toward
people with a disability. However, when looking at gender of the
confederate, when the female confederate was present there were favorable
attitudes reported for those of high and moderate previous interaction,
but when the female control was present the levels of favorably were low
for these same exposure groups. This is interesting because the majority
of participants (10 out of 12) were females. This may suggest that
the females could have been more sensitive to the situational cues of the
presence or absence of a disabled person than were the males. Perhaps
further research would be able to look into these complex findings.
Overall, the fact that participants were educated in a private or public
institution did not have much bearing on an individual’s experience with
the physically disabled. It can be implied from this study that private
institutions are either becoming more integrated or requiring more service
experience than past research has suggested. What is also implied
here is the confirmation of the contact hypothesis in accordance with perceptions
of the disabled; that is, the more contact a person has with a person with
a disability the more favorable and less stereotypic their attitudes will
The current study was aimed to measure attitude differences by introducing
subtle situational stimuli. The confederates used forearm crutches
and a gate similar to that of a person with cerebral palsy to represent
a permanent physical disability. A wheelchair was ruled out because
it seemed too evident of a deception considering the small size and close
proximity of the college residents. A person in a wheelchair would
have attracted much attention. Perhaps a more brazen approach would
have generated more extreme results in either a favorable or unfavorable
way. Since there was an unequal representation of males, future studies
could require an equal number to complete the questionnaire. Also,
a pre-test could aid in obtaining an equal number of private and public
high school alumni to deal with this variable more effectively. This
experimenter chose not to use a pre-test to avoid creating a defensive
attitude toward a participant’s educational background. More detailed
background questions would be helpful, but the questions presented did
result in support of the hypothesis of the influence of previous interaction.
Although some aspects of the study were not consistent with the proposed
hypothesis the contact theory was confirmed. The study was successful
in supporting the importance of previous interaction on shaping peoples’
perceptions of the physically disabled. Gender was not an initial
focus of the study, but as variables were measured it proved a significant
factor in the reporting of perceptions. Gender of both the confederate
and participants should be should be a focus in future studies.
Studies that investigate issues concerning the physically disabled are
important because these people tend to be the forgotten minority.
Research has reported a commonality of discomfort around persons with disabilities
(Bruce, Harman & Baker, 2000; Fichten & Bourdon, 1986; MacLean
& Gannon, 1995; Makas, 1988; Weinburg, 1976). These studies combine
to support the theory that the less contact with the disabled, the less
knowledge one has about the disabled, therefore more discomfort is experienced
by the non-disabled. Donaldson & Martinson (1997) suggest that
the reason women have a more favorable view is that they tend to be more
knowledgeable about disabilities and have more contact with the disabled.
It is important to know the source of this uneasiness in order to eliminate
it. Studies similar to the current one also benefit the education
of children. With research pointing toward the benefit of early exposure
in childhood leading to tolerance (Esposito & Peach, 1983; Lehrer,
1983) these studies could provide a basis for educational programs in our
schools. It is one thing to find out whether favorable or unfavorable attitudes
towards the disabled exist, it is another to actually intervene and modify
these attitudes. Even with prior contact with persons with a disability,
many non-disabled people have never heard a disabled person share their
feelings about how disabled people are perceived or how they feel about
their condition. It has been suggested that live and videotaped discussions
by a panel of disabled persons may be effective in modifying stereotypic
attitudes toward the disabled (Donaldson & Martinson, 1977).
Future research could focus on the long term effects of such infusion based
Also, the type of disability a person has may be a factor in shaping the
attitudes of the non-disabled. People with learning disabilities
tend to elicit less tolerant attitudes when compared with those with visible
disabilities (Beilke & Yssel, 1999; Dobson & Bost, 1985; Newberry
& Parish, 1987). These studies showed that a tolerant attitude
was present, but that non-disabled people expressed signs of discomfort
through body language, such as avoiding eye contact. Stereotypes
and intolerance do not simply consist of words or opinions, people communicate
with their entire bodies. It is not the mere existence of contact
but the nature that affects attitudes. In 1985, Fichten, Compton
& Amsel conducted a study in which participants were asked required
to imagine empathy toward person with a disability; it had no effect on
attitudes. What resulted in an effect on attitudes were the participants’
socially desirable beliefs and stereotypes that they brought with them.
Gosse & Sheppard (1979) further support that future research needs
to explore the type of contact, duration of and most importantly quality
of contact. The study suggests that a negative initial encounter
tend to skew a non-disabled persons perception in a negative manner.
have confirmed that early exposure is beneficial in children and adults;
something needs to be done to educate the current educators. This
can begin with post-secondary institutions going beyond aesthetic accommodations
and supplying the necessary supportive services, which include aids for
both student and professor. Institutions should designate a person
to coordinate the education of the physically disabled (1999), but they
must be cautious not to alienate the students from the rest of the collegiate
population. If Franklin D. Roosevelt can lead a country out of a
Depression while suffering from polio, the development of a quality infusion
based disability awareness program seems elementary.
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Enhancement of attitudes toward handicapped children through social interactions.
of Social Psychology, 127(1), 59-62.
statements below express opinions or ideas about people who are disabled.
There are many differences of opinion; many people agree and many people
disagree with each statement. Please circle the appropriate number,
from -3 to +3, which best corresponds with how you feel about the statement.
There are no right or wrong answers. Please respond to each statement.
I strongly disagree
+3: I agree a little
I disagree pretty much +2: I agree pretty much
I disagree a little
+1: I strongly agree
children should not be provided with a free public
-3 -2 -1 +1 +2
Disabled people are in many ways like children.
-3 -2 -1 +1 +2
Zoning ordinances should not discriminate against disabled people by
prohibiting group homes in residential districts.
-3 -2 -1 +1 +2
individuals can be expected to fit into competitive society.
-3 -2 -1 +1 +2
test was reprinted with permission of the author, Richard Antonak (1981).
and psychometric analysis of the Scale of Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons.
Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire, Education Department.
following is a brief questionnaire intended to gather some general background
information. Please circle or fill in the appropriate information.
Gender: M F
Year of graduation: 2003 2004
Did you attend a private or public high school? Private
Have you ever had any previous interaction with the disabled?
yes, please explain how.
anyone in your family disabled? Yes No
yes, please explain your relationship to them and their disability.
you yourself disabled? Yes No
yes, please explain your disability.
would like to begin by thanking you for participating in my senior thesis
study; your help is greatly appreciated. As of 1994, 48.9 million people
in the United States qualified as having a disability. Around 1.5
million of these people are in wheelchairs and another 4 million use the
aid of a cane, crutch, or walker. With 4.5 million people in the
U.S. with a visible disability the population of non-physically disabled
persons should be used to interacting with the physically handicapped.
Yet research shows that interaction is not a common occurrence. However,
if exposed at a young age non-disabled persons tend not to hold many of
the stereotypical views of the disabled. The purpose of my thesis
is to look at how college students perceive the physically disabled depending
on their possible exposure to the disabled. The main focus of my
research is to measure whether there is any difference between college
students who had had previous exposure to persons with disabilities and
those who had not. I asked whether participants had attended private
or public schools because research has shown that public schools offer
a greater exposure rate to the physically disabled than private schools.
groups of participants were placed in two different environments.
Each of the groups took the same questionnaire that focused on people’s
perceptions of the physically disabled. The difference was that two
of the groups completed the questionnaire with a peer present who appeared
to have a physical disability, one female the other male, while the other
two groups had no interaction with the disabled person. The disabled
individual was in the room posing as a participant but was in fact there
to create exposure to a person with a disability. My intent was to
test whether the presence of a person with a physical disability would
elicit a different response from the questionnaires of the non-exposed
greatly appreciate your contribution to my senior thesis. The questionnaire
is completely anonymous and in no way reflect on you personally.
It is important to note that there are no right or wrong answers to any
of the questions. The use of deception was necessary to collect honest,
unbiased answers. I would have preferred a different method but circumstances
would not allow it.
remember that this is an ongoing research project that does require some
secrecy, so I am relying on you not to discuss information concerning this
research project until November 26th. If you have any questions,
concerns or are interested in the results please contact me: Alyson Small,
firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you