Akim report: The experiences of the intellectually disabled

This year's report was the first to examine the attitudes of people with mental disabilities as well as those of the general public.

February 14, 2016 22:35
3 minute read.
Writing in bed

A young woman is lying in a bed with a cat and is taking notes with a pen and notepad. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Israeli society’s perceived attitudes toward people with mental disabilities don’t jive with the experiences of this population group experiences, according to a report by AKIM, the National Organization for the Habilitation of Children and Adults with Intellectual Disabilities.

“Despite the public’s testimony in the survey that they see people with intellectual disabilities as equals, [the survey] shows that people with mental handicaps experience it differently,” said Akim Chairman Ami Ayalon.

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He and the organization’s CEO, Sigal Peretz Yahalomi, on Sunday, presented Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein with Akim’s fourth index of Israeli society’s attitude toward inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.

This year’s report was the first to examine the attitudes of people with mental disabilities as well as those of the general public.

“People [with disabilities] report humiliation and degradation, and their [the public’s] words evoke much grief.

It seems that a situation has developed where it is not politically correct to speak ill of... people with disabilities, but it seems this is still not reflected in practice,” Ayalon said.

According to the survey, the majority of Israelis reported that they have overall positive attitudes toward people with mental disabilities and that, over the years, there has been an improvement in most components of their attitudes toward this group.

This, however, was in sharp contrast to the responses of those with intellectual disabilities who reported that they were exposed to offensive behavior, laughed at, ignored, called names and insulted.

The report found that 90 percent of the general population responded that they were willing to be neighbors with people with intellectual disabilities, up from compared to 86% in the third index and 81% in the second index. Furthermore, 70% of the public said they were willing to be friends with a person with a mental disability.

In contrast, 41% of people with mental disabilities stated that they had been exposed to people unwilling to be their neighbors, and 48% responded that people had laughed or pointed at them in the street.

The findings also indicated that some 80% of the general public said they would offer help to a person with an intellectual disability, while 75% reported that they would feel comfortable being around a person with an intellectual disability.

In addition, 90% of the public said they would be willing to receive services from people with intellectual disabilities.

These attitudes also contrasted the experiences of the respondents with disabilities.

Forty-six percent of those with intellectual disabilities reported that people ignored them, while 40% reported being called names and insulted.

In addition, 42% said they felt the general public treats them differently because of their differences.

The report indicated an improvement in the general public’s attitude toward people with disabilities as only 10% responded that they believed a person with intellectual disabilities could be dangerous to society, compared to 15% in the third index.

Despite this improvement, however, 25% of respondents stated that they believed people with intellectual disabilities should remain in separate institutions.

The survey also found that 33% of the respondents with intellectual disabilities reported that they are spoken to like children, while 57% of the general population reported feeling pity for this disabled population group.

“In the fourth index, it is evident that people feel pity toward people with intellectual disabilities,” said Peretz Yahalomi. “We estimate that this happens because of the view that the disability is the essence of the matter. In other words, people do not see the man himself standing before them, at eye level, as their equal. Rather, the only thing they see is the disability.”

This perception will change only as people are more exposed to the intellectually handicapped population, she said.

“Akim is working to change this social perception – from paternalism toward people with disabilities to a perception of human dignity and liberty,” she said.

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