Disability training reduces students' negativity
Three quarters of the words used by medical students to describe disability were negative, a study has shown, but a training course caused a significant change in attitude (Medical Education 2005;39: 176-83).
Margaret Byron and colleagues asked a cohort of 381 medical students at Bristol University to anonymously write down words that they associated with disability. They repeated the exercise after a four day course about disability.
Words visually describing disability and loss were prominent initially, accounting for 85% of the words, and 74% of the words were negative. Commonly used words were “wheelchair,” “handicap,” “impairment,” and “disadvantage.”
Focus groups showed that students were nervous about meeting disabled people and although well intentioned were patronising in their attitude. One student was quoted as saying, “Make special arrangements for them so that they feel included. Sort of almost mother them a bit so that they don't feel insecure.”
Dr Byron was