New survey shows society is more open to inclusion of children with disabilities

05 December 2018
A child with visual impairment is using his hands and fingers to explore a statue
UNICEF/2017/Georgiev

SKOPJE, 3 December 2018:  A new survey on the general public’s knowledge, attitudes and practices toward children with disabilities shows the country has made incredible progress in removing attitudinal barriers that prevent them from taking up their rightful place in society.

Almost all people surveyed now find it acceptable for their child to be a neighbour, acquaintance, classmate and friend with children with disabilities. A growing number of citizens interact with children with disability on a regular basis and believe that they should be learning in mainstream schools together with their peers.

“Stigma is often set by knowledge built on stereotypes.  Lack of information, mistaken perceptions, isolation and segregation perpetrate these stereotypes – so the best way to address stigma is to break the stereotypes,” said Mr. Benjamin Perks, UNICEF Representative. “The survey results show that when you give children with disability opportunities to demonstrate their abilities, societies can overcome the stigma that prevents them from being included and participating.”

The survey, initially conducted in 2014, served as a baseline for social change interventions to advance the rights of people with disabilities. Many organisations, including the Government, have been working towards this. The follow up survey shows incredible progress has been made to remove knowledge and attitudinal barriers to inclusion. Key findings include:

  • Significantly more people – 62 per cent (2018) compared to 45 per cent (2014) - confirm knowing a child with disabilities and are having more frequent contacts with them. 
  • Over 90 per cent (2018) now find it acceptable for their child to be a neighbour, acquaintance, classmate and friend with children with disabilities. This was not the case in 2014, when on average 32 per cent found it acceptable for their child to be a classmate with a child with disabilities.
  • A clear majority – 86 per cent (2018) compared to 58 per cent (2014) - understand that society and the environment should be adapted to meet the needs of children with disabilities – an approach embedded in the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.
  • Many people – 73 per cent (2018) compared to 55 per cent (2014) - believe inclusive education benefits both children with disabilities and children without disabilities in that it contributes to improved social skills, tolerance and respect for diversity.
  • There is a six-fold increase – 4 per cent (2014) to 24 per cent (2018) - in the proportion of people who believe the best approach to education of children with disabilities is to attend mainstream schools and participate in regular classes with their peers without disabilities. 
  • While others support the idea of children with disabilities attending mainstream schools, still 18 per cent believe they should attend selected classes with peers; and 22 per cent segregated classes.  Those who believe children with disabilities should attend special schools has reduced from 48 per cent (2014) to 31 per cent (2018).

“Positive changes in knowledge, attitudes and practices within society needs to be followed by accelerated implementation of policies and programmes to make inclusion a reality for the tens of thousands of children and adults with a disability in the country,” said Mr. Benjamin Perks, UNICEF Representative.  “We trust this will drive democratic demand for more inclusion and accelerate the implementation of system reforms currently underway to ensure every child receives the support they need to go to school with their peers, get the health and social services they need and to put an end to exclusion, isolation and institutionalisation of children with disability,” said Mr. Perks. 

The “Follow-up Survey on Knowledge, Attitudes, Practices towards Inclusion of Children with Disabilities” was conducted as part of a broader UNICEF supported programme to advance the rights of children with disabilities and is supported by the EU funded and UNICEF Regional Project “Protecting Children from violence and promoting social inclusion of children with disabilities in Western Balkans and Turkey”. Among these interventions was the EU funded and UNICEF “Be fair for a childhood without barriers” campaign that triggered discussion about stigma towards people with disabilities.

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