Attitudes towards disabilities in a multicultural society

Mary T. Westbrook*, Varoe Legge, Mark Pennay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Citations (Scopus)


Health practitioners (N = 665) from the Chinese, Italian, German, Greek, Arabic and Anglo Australian communities used social distance scales to rate the attitudes of people in their communities toward 20 disability groups. Significant differences were found in community attitudes toward people with 19 of these disabilities. Overall the German community expressed greatest acceptance of people with disabilities, followed by the Anglo, Italian, Chinese, Greek and Arabic groups. However the relative degree of stigma attached to the various disabilities by the communities was very similar. In all communities, people with asthma, diabetes, heart disease and arthritis were the most, and people with AIDS, mental retardation, psychiatric illness and cerebral palsy, the least accepted of the disability groups. These stigma hierarchies were remarkably similar to other hierarchies reported over the last 23 years. The findings have important implications for people with disabilities and health practitioners in multicultural societies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-623
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • attitudes
  • culture
  • disability
  • stigma hierarchy


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