Did you know that in Pennsylvania, 79% of people surveyed said they believe society thinks of individuals with physical, mental or intellectual disabilities “with discomfort and awkwardness?” That needs to change. The stigma associated with people with disabilities is ugly, hurtful, offensive and ignorant. Most people do not understand the negative impact their thoughts, words and actions can have on the lives of people with disabilities.
Most people want to do the right thing. Most people also say they do not contribute to the stigma surrounding people with disabilities. But the truth is, they do—often in ways they don’t even realize. It’s the lack of exposure, interaction and dialogue that causes natural reactions of discomfort, caution and fear. If we get to know people with disabilities for who they truly are, we would see that our differences are not deficits.
The Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council (PADDC) is taking a bold stand against stigma. PADDC was created under a federal act and is a planning group and funding body whose mission is to build inclusive communities and change negative societal attitudes toward people with disabilities. As one of the projects funded by PADDC, the Stigma Project aims to reduce stigma through public relations and communications. The grant was awarded to and is overseen by the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association (PMHCA).
It’s time to stare the stigma associated with disabilities right in the face.