In March 2018, the Victorian Government partnered with the University of Melbourne to conduct a survey to help provide a baseline measure of community attitudes around disability. It was developed to inform the Victorian government’s work in relation to ‘Changing Attitudes’, a priority of Absolutely Everyone: Victorian State Disability Plan (2017-2020). This survey focused on attitudes that impact the social and economic participation of people with disability of all ages. It was the first population-level survey about attitudes and disability in Victoria.

The Survey of Community Attitudes toward People with Disability (Community Attitudes Survey) is the first research of its kind for the state of Victoria, involving 1,000 participants from greater Melbourne and the rest of Victoria.

The Community Attitudes Survey examines personally-held and perceived societal attitudes about people with disability. The survey explored dimensions of attitudes including beliefs, feelings, and behaviours. This report presents results thematically based on survey content.

Attitudes have great impact on people’s lives. There is a link between community attitudes about disability and the extent to which people with disability are included in society. Attitudes are embedded in all levels of communities, from person-to-person interactions to formal policy and law.

Researchers in public health and related disciplines have been studying attitudes about disability for many decades. Although attitudes are known to influence discrimination and social exclusion, they can be difficult to measure, particularly compared to observable actions. Nevertheless, measuring attitudes is very important work. The more we understand about people’s attitudes, the more effectively we can work to change those attitudes which cause harm. Improving attitudes is key to achieving a society that is equitable toward and inclusive of people with disability.

Key findings:

General observations


  • Nearly three-quarters agreed that people without disability are unsure how to act toward people with disability.
  • One-third of respondents agreed that people without disability are uncomfortable asking people with disability what supports they need.

Beliefs and stereotypes

  • Most respondents did not see people with disability as a burden on society or on families.
  • Nearly one quarter agreed that people with disability have less to look forward to than people without disability.
  • Most saw people with disability as more exploitable than people without disability.
  • Most agreed that society is strengthened by people with disability.

Rights and entitlements

  • Most respondents supported the rights of people with disability to have sexual relationships and to be included in discussions about sex.
  • Almost twenty percent agreed that people with disability should not raise children.

Discrimination and social exclusion

  • When asked how likely people were to pity and avoid different disability types, participants viewed:
  1. people with psychosocial disabilities (depression and schizophrenia) as the least likely to be pitied, and
  2. people with psychosocial disabilities, intellectual disability, and brain injury as the most likely to be avoided.
  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents agreed that people often make fun of disabilities.

Attitudes at work and school

  • About 60 percent of participants agreed that schools are accepting of people with disability.
  • 45 percent agreed that workplaces are accepting of people with disability.
Related Information

Absolutely everyone: state disability plan 2017-2020

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