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Using the Data in the Tables Provided, What Can You Say About: Essay

Using the data in the tables provided, what can you say about: a) prejudice against disabled people in the UK?
b) attitudes towards disabled people in the UK?
Table 1 displays how much prejudice people feel there is against disabled people, by year. This measure of prejudice was taken in the years 1998, 2000, 2005 and 2009. The responses were categorised as following; a lot, a little, hardly any, none and don’t know. In 1998 25% of respondents felt there was a lot of prejudice against disabled people. In 2000 this percentage increased to 35% thus giving a percentage point difference of 10. In 2005 this figure decreased to 25% and in 2009 it was 26%. There is an anomaly in the data for the year 2000 because it does not fit the pattern. It is also important to note that the sample size varied in each year. It was 3139 in 1998, 3422 in 2000, 3193 in 2005 and 2282 in 2009. The category with highest percentage was ‘a little’ with an average of 51.25% from 1998 – 2009.Therefore it can be said that there is prejudice against disabled people in the UK over time.

Table 2 looks at the percentage of people that would be very comfortable interacting with people with a range of impairments in different situations in the year 2009. The range of impairments consisted of physical disability, sensory impairment, learning disability and mental health condition. The situations that the respondents were asked to indicate their level of comfort were; club/team, move in next door, in class/at school, marry, boss, Member of Parliament. The data shows that people that have a mental health condition are the people that respondents felt the least comfortable interacting in comparison to the other impairments. The situations in which this trend is most apparent is when the individual in question is a Member of Parliament, a Boss respectively.

Table 3 illustrates the percentage of people who said they would be very comfortable if a close family member or friend married a disabled person. Respondents are class according to their age in the following ranges; 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-59, 60-64 and 65+. The categories of impairments are the same as in table 2. In accordance with the results displayed in table 2, respondents of all ages indicated the smallest percentage of comfort if a
close family or friend married someone with a mental health condition.

Table 4 categorised the respondents into the same age ranges as in table 3 and used the same impairments as in table 2 and 3. The title of table 4 is the percentage of people saying they would be very comfortable if a disabled person was appointed their boss at work, by age. It was found that from the ages of 18-54 mental health condition was the impairment that the least amount of respondents indicated they would be very comfortable. Mental health condition and learning disability had the lowest percentage of respondents in the age range 55-59 indicate that they would be very comfortable, at a level of 19% each.

Therefore it can be said looking at tables 2 – 4 attitudes towards disabled people in the UK vary in accordance with the type of disability, it can be said individuals with mental health conditions where the least number of respondents were willing to indicate a high level of comfort in a range of situations including, across all ages. (543 words)

Using the articles below, and material from ‘Connected lives’, describe how relational identities are often characterised by inequality. A social identity can be defined as an ‘identity given by connections to other people and social situations.’ (Taylor, 2009, pg 167) There are many different forms a social identity can take. One example is the collective or group identity, which is categorical in nature. These categories imply that every individual within that group has common characteristics. Perhaps even more importantly, there is the assumption that these individuals are different to individuals who are not part of that group; so they do not share the same collective identity. For instance, there is the collective identity of individuals who have a disability. They are united in their similarities of having a disability, and also in their shared differences to ‘typical’ individuals who do not have a disability.

Another important social identity form is a relational identity. This can be described as a two-sided relationship between two individuals or two collective identities (Taylor 2009, pg167). An important feature of
relational identities between groups is that they are usually unequal, where one group has an unmarked identity that is taken for granted as normal, and the second group has a marked identity which is negatively valued and this negative evaluation is always noticed (Taylor, 2009, pg 179). It is the aim of this essay to describe how relational identities are often characterised by inequality, using the example of people with a disability as the marked group.

It is important to explore the dynamics of collective identity because they are important on a societal level. Collective identities can be used a platform to mobilise individuals into taking collective action (Taylor, 2009, pg169). The Equality human rights article can be described as an example of this because it uses experiences of people with disabilities to speak out against disablism and take action to improve the quality of life for this group. At this point it is important to consider how these identities of difference arose in the first place.

Firstly, the discourse used when talking about individuals with a disability should be considered. Both the Equality Human rights article and the Guardian article refer to these individuals as having the collective identity of ‘disabled people’. This discourse exemplifies the use of language to create a negatively valued identity, whereby these individuals are being characterised and in turn categorised by their disability, which then forms their collective identity. It is a label given to this group by other people, who that label does not apply to (Taylor, 2009, pg185). Due to this label being used in discourse such as the Equality human rights article and the Guardian article, it becomes established and a way of identifying people by this one aspect of their being. This occurrence is a social process known as Othering. It allows for a strong distinction to be made between groups which perpetuates identities of difference (Taylor, 2009, pg 179).

Secondly, an important mechanism which underlies the process of Othering is the use of a marked and unmarked identity assigned to each collective identity in a pair of unequal relational identities (Taylor, 2009, pg 179).
The marginalised group is marked using the label assigned to them which details their negative attributes (Taylor, 2009, pg 178). The Equal human rights article quotes a disabled man describing an encounter of prejudice “Then I had a tirade of abuse, being called a f****** cripple. Told I should be grateful to get on a bus and stop bloody moaning”. In this case, the man in question has been identified by his disability and accordingly been referred to in an offensive manner and attributed as being ungrateful and unappreciative. He has been negatively evaluated and given a lower status almost as though he does not have the equal right to air his grievances as someone who does not have a disability. This is a product of his marked identity and the unequal identity position he has been given using that by an individual who has an unmarked identity. This illustrates the inequality of this relational identity. Moreover, the Equality human rights article suggests that this prejudiced behaviour is very common in Wales, and it is largely left unchallenged. This lack of practical consequences reinforces this label as being acceptable and so reinforces the unequal relational identity.

However, referring back to the political importance of collective identities, it is important to realise that these unequal relational identities are not fixed over time. It is possible to achieve social change by collective action. This is the aim of the Equality human rights article which outlines key areas for intervention. The first one is ‘Partners and leadership: A determination to eliminate harassment needs to be shown by leaders’. This echoes the aim for social change on a societal level. It also illustrates the important role of power in creating, maintaining and perpetuating the marginalisation of certain groups; in the current case, individuals with disabilities (Taylor, 2009, pg 182). The Guardian article illustrates this further as it challenges Members of Parliament (MPs) on their negative rhetoric regarding a peer with the disability of cerebral palsy. MPs have a crucial role in shaping relational identities through the discourse they engage in with their constituents and the power they have in shaping policies. Therefore when attempting to achieve social change through collective action it is necessary to address the imbalance of power which allows the unequal relational identity to form. The Guardian article states
‘MPs are lawmakers…a position of power and authority over all members of the public. The House of Commons is not a school playground, and I don’t think MPs should be allowed to get away with treating it as such.’ This is an example of how an individual (the author of the article) has targeted those in powerful positions who belong to the unmarked group, and in doing so has gathered members of the marked disabled group to challenge the unequal power balance in their relational identity, thus organising individuals ready for collective action.

In conclusion it can be said that the social process of Othering allows for the development of unequal relational identities. This process is based on the mechanisms of labelling and the use of marked and unmarked identities. An important aspect of this is the role of power in maintaining these identities of difference. This is made even more important because power relations can be targeted to implement social change through collective action. Therefore although relational identities are often characterised by inequality, they can change over time. (1079 words)

Taylor, S. (2009) ‘Who do we think we are? Identities in everyday life’ in Taylor, S., Hinchliffe, S., Clarke, J. and Bromley, S. (eds) Making Social Lives, Milton Keynes, The Open University

Self Reflection
I found this essay really interesting because it relates so much to the world around us. I particularly liked looking at how social change can be achieved to increase equality across groups. I am managing my time a bit better therefore being able to put more effort into the assignment.

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