Negative attitudes is one of the biggest barriers disabled people face. It’s an ongoing theme and topic of conversation for us. Scope’s new research has found that there is still a lack of understanding of disability.

Disabled people experience negative attitudes in many parts of our lives:

  • at work
  • on public transport
  • when shopping
  • on social media
  • and so on

It is important for businesses to know about these attitudes. We need businesses to understand the impact they have on disabled people. And on social and working culture. We need organisations to take responsibility and take action. Then impactful changes can be made to support disabled colleagues and customers.

This research surveyed over 4,000 disabled adults. This is what they found:

Top figures from Scope’s research

Our research into attitudes found:

  • 3 out of 4 disabled people (72%) have experienced negative attitudes or behaviour in the last 5 years
  • 9 out of 10 disabled people (87%) said this had a negative effect on their daily lives

Disabled people told us negative attitudes were most often experienced:

  • with the public (42%)
  • from management at work (42%)
  • on public transport (39%)
  • from retail staff (28%)

Organisations need to do more to train their staff around disability. Attitudes can be as disabling as physical barriers. Under the social model of disability, it’s society’s responsibility to remove those barriers.

What disabled people told us

Some of the types of attitudes and behaviours disabled people experienced included:

  • Assumptions and judgements about my disability or what I can do (33%)
  • Rushing me or being impatient (29%)
  • Dismissing my condition, disabled people, or need for adjustments (27%)
  • Accusing me of faking or being lazy (25%)
  • Forgetting, ignoring, or excluding me (23%)
  • Patronising me (24%)
  • Being uncomfortable around me due to awkwardness (14%)
  • Touch or moving my equipment/support aids without permission (5%)

One participant shared:

“…..They were like, ‘Hold on a minute, you’re not disabled.’ I said, ‘I am, that’s my name is written on the [blue] badge.’ They were, like, ‘No, you’re not allowed, you don’t look it.’ You’re sitting there thinking, ‘Do I really need to look disabled? What does looking disabled mean to you?”

Another shared experiences of verbal and even physical abuse:

“Beginning of the first lockdown I was spat at, pushed and abused. I was being blamed because of (quote) ‘spastic people’ [who] needed to be protected, therefore a lockdown on everyone. I also stopped wearing the sunflower lanyard as that was just like antagonising the situation.”

Understanding lived experiences

It’s more essential than ever for organisations to raise awareness and understanding. It’s important to create a culture of accessibility and inclusion.

Businesses can use this research to understand the lives of their disabled employees and customers. There are lots of ways Scope can help businesses improve these experiences.

Building understanding and empathy towards disability through training can be a great first step. If you need help, we can support businesses with accessibility and disability inclusion.

Scope training

The impact of negative attitudes

Negative attitudes can impact disabled people in different ways. It can impact the decisions they make about employment or where they spend their money.

It is important businesses create positive experiences for disabled colleagues and customers.


Negative attitudes significantly affected disabled people looking for work or promotions.

35% said they avoided this completely because of their negative experiences.

When in employment or looking for work, disabled people reported negative attitudes from:

  • management (42%)
  • work colleagues (41%)
  • recruitment agency staff (40%)

When this happens, businesses can lose out on talented disabled employees. Employees who can benefit their work. Scope can help businesses create an inclusive workplace through training and specialist support.

Scope workplace inclusion services


Disabled people face negative attitudes going about their daily lives. They have experienced negative attitudes from:

  • retail staff like shops and supermarkets (28%)
  • leisure staff like theme parks and sports clubs (26%)
  • hospitality staff like pubs and restaurants (25%)

These are important for businesses to know so they improve disabled customers’ experiences. Staff need to be aware of disability and the impact of negative experiences on customers. This will improve customer service and these experiences will be less common.

Other areas

Negative attitudes and behaviours affected other areas of disabled people’s lives:

  • 23% who used public transport avoided it after negative attitudes while travelling
  • 3 in 10 disabled people (30%) avoided looking for education or training
  • 35% said they experienced negative attitudes from teachers, lecturers, or other training staff

Because of these attitudes it’s important for businesses to be inclusive. Disabled people need to be able to access education and work without being excluded. This is why it’s essential for businesses create an inclusive culture.

Disabled colleagues will face barriers before they get to work. Whether the journey there, within their education or development opportunities. We need everyone to be empathetic and kind. And to understand the attitudes and experiences they have faced.

What businesses can do to help

We want businesses to use this research in their work to help improve attitudes. To help you do this, Scope offers different training to support accessibility and the inclusion of disabled people.

Read the full findings of the attitudes research (Scope)

Related products