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  1. 1. Running head: DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 1 To help or not to help? The role of disability stigma and demand Elena R. Torry-Schrag Macalester College
  2. 2. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 2 Abstract This paper examines two factors hypothesized to influence willingness to help people with disabilities: Attitude toward disability and perceived capacity of the helper. Stigma (presence or absence of disability) and demand of help were manipulated in the context of a vignette. Participants read the vignette and were asked to rate their likelihood of helping. They also completed several measures of attitude toward disability. A significant main effect of demand and a significant main effect of stigma were found, such that participants were more willing to help in low demand scenarios, and also in high stigma scenarios. Additionally, there was a significant difference of competence ratings between the groups “students at your college” and “people with physical disabilities,” such that “people with physical disabilities” were rated as significantly less competent than “students at your college.” Implications and future areas of research are discussed.
  3. 3. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 3 To help or not to help? The role of disability stigma and demand Because people with disabilities have historically been excluded from mainstream society through institutionalization and “special,” segregated schools (Linton, 1998), scholars and activists within the domain of disability often focus on the social exclusion of people with disabilities (Wendell, 1996). Lack of resources in education and an absence of job opportunities continue to marginalize a large group of American citizens, even after the passage of legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 (Neufeldt, 1995; Wendell, 1996). Cultural views that disability should be a private matter furthers the isolation of people with disabilities, forcing the experience of having a disability “underground” (Wendell, 1996, p. 60). Other cultural values also influence attitudes toward disability. For instance, MacGregor (2012) argues that the “independent individual” is a fundamental element of capitalist societies, shaping not only the labor market but wider expectations for behavior (para 16). It sets expectations for what constitutes “work,” and what type of people (read: bodies) are capable of working. Restriction from the workplace based on able-bodied standards projects the idea that people with disabilities are a burden on the larger society. This invalidates their identity as an “active citizen,” removing all autonomy from the disabled person (para. 4). American culture places a premium on independence, with “expectations of individual productivity” in the workplace and everyday life (Wendell, 1996, p. 59). The cultural archetype of the “self-made man” who achieves success through pulling himself up by his bootstraps is one example of the value placed on autonomy and self reliance. This high value on independence masks the reality that all people require some level of assistance (MacGregor, 2012; Wendell, 1996). However, by casting certain types of assistance as “entitlements” rather than “help,”
  4. 4. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 4 people who require additional help beyond the entitlement level are categorized outside the norm of independence, creating an ​us/them dichotomy between nondisabled and disabled individuals (Dreger, 2004; Wendell, 1996). Indeed, research suggests that people with disabilities are widely characterized as needing help. Rohmer and Louvet (2012) measured implicit stereotypes associated with people with disabilities, and found they were judged to be less competent and less warm than nondisabled people. Low competence ratings suggest that people with disabilities may be stereotyped as relying on others and needing assistance. Furthermore, Nario-Redmond (2010) found that disability stereotypes are consistent across type of disability. According to her research, people with disabilities are most commonly characterized as “dependent,” “weak,” and “incompetent” (p. 479), indicating that disabled people are widely and pervasively thought of in terms of a need for assistance. The characterization of people with disabilities as weak and incompetent, undesirable traits within the context of American individualism, contributed to their marginalization by nondisabled people, including through such historically common acts as institutionalization and forced sterilization (Crissey, 1975; Wehmeyer, 2003). While the marginalization of disabled people may look different today, the ability of people with disabilities to participate in all aspects of society is still highly limited, and should therefore be an area of great concern. Research in this area may also prompt action on behalf of people with disabilities to counteract the negative effects of social isolation and discrimination. Social movements in the United States, including those on behalf of disabled people, have historically relied on intergroup alliances, with non-marginalized individuals working to end prejudice in personal and professional areas of the lives of marginalized groups (Brown &
  5. 5. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 5 Ostrove, 2013). Allies in the domain of disability are defined by Gil (2001) as people who “make the effort to learn who their disabled associates are in their full glory and their full ordinariness,” or “those people who just seem to “get it” (p. 368). Gil argues that allies can promote better attitudes towards people with disabilities, which could be an important step in ameliorating the social isolation of disabled people. However, little research has been done to illuminate barriers that may prevent nondisabled people from becoming allies to people with physical disabilities. This is an area worth exploring, because “interactions between majority and minority group members are often fraught with uncertainty and misunderstanding,” (Wang, Silverman, Gwin, & Dovidio, 2015, 491). Lack of contact between people with and without disabilities means that nondisabled people may lack social scripts to guide their behavior, which could cause hesitation and anxiety. Braithwaite and Eckstein (2003) argue that the question of “how and when” assistance should be provided or offered to people with disabilities is one with which non-disabled people often struggle, “especially when interacting with strangers or acquaintances who are disabled” (p. 3). It could be that nondisabled people perceive people with disabilities as needing help, but are uncertain of their ability to help and the appropriateness of offering assistance. This suggests that “help” as it relates to allyship in the context of disability is an important area of inquiry. As a result of the American premium on independence, there is a cultural norm to “let others stand on their own two feet” (Braithwaite & Eckstein, 2003, p. 4). Deviation from that norm can elicit strong and instantaneous negative reactions, such as “behavioral aversion” (Dovidio, Pagotto, & Hebl, 2011, p. 159). If nondisabled individuals characterize disabled people in terms of their need for help and additionally view needing help as a norm deviation, it is likely
  6. 6. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 6 that they would have negative reactions towards people with disabilities, including the desire to avoid them. The context in which these evaluations occur are also influential. According to Goffman (1963), social settings set expectations for “categories of persons likely to be encountered there” (p. 256). Strangers in that setting are evaluated by their appearance, which facilitates anticipation of their attributes and social identity. Because the built environment was created by and for able-bodied people, people with disabilities may be more noticeable, and seemingly out of place (Wendell, 1996). Their appearance as physically different from the normative category of people in the environment may lead to evaluations of dependency, and the need for help. According to Goffman, stigma symbols are “signs which are especially effective in drawing attention to a debasing identity” (p. 44). It is possible, then, that the presence of a wheelchair may activate stigmatized notions of people with disabilities. Goffman refers to individuals whose stigmatized identity is evident “on the spot” as “the discredited” (p. 4). This seems particularly apt for the domain of disability, where people with physical disabilities are often seen as lacking the necessary credentials for autonomy and control. Goffman further states that attitudes towards stigmatized individuals directly influence our actions toward them. He offers the example of a nondisabled person desiring to avoid helping a blind person as just one manifestation of stigma-influenced behavior. Piliavin, Piliavin, and Rodin (1975) empirically investigated the effect of stigma on willingness to help. They predicted that negative attitudes elicited by a physical stigma would override the tendency to help someone in need. In their study, an actor with a “facial disfigurement” (p. 432) rode on a subway car, and suddenly fell to the ground. Confederates posing as subway riders tracked and coded helping behavior, and measured the length of time
  7. 7. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 7 before the actor was helped, either with physical touch or a verbal inquiry. Willingness to help differed significantly by stigma: Unmarked victims received significantly more help than “stigmatized victims” (p. 433). While this study did not specifically look at physical disability so much as physical “disfigurement” (p. 432), the global attributions made toward people of across disability (Nario-Redmond, 2010) suggests that stigma effects may also be generalizable to other disability-related stigmas. This would suggest that the stigma of disability does cause nondisabled individuals to avoid people with disabilities. It is therefore possible that nondisabled people may be averse to forming alliances with people with disabilities because of unfavorable attitudes related to helping stigmatized individuals. Soble and Strickland (1974) also examined the effect of stigma on willingness to help. They argued that interactions with stigmatized individuals causes unpleasant affective reactions in non-stigmatized individuals. They further postulated that non-stigmatized individuals shape their lives and routines to avoid contact with stigmatized individuals, to avoid feelings of discomfort. These claims were tested in a study in which a confederate went door-to-door and distributed a survey to participants and attempted to arrange a follow-up interview. In half of the trials she appeared physically “normal,” and in the other half had an obvious physical disability. Participants were significantly more likely to agree to an interview when her appearance was “normal,” demonstrating that the presence physical disability triggers the desire to avoid interactions with the stigmatized individual. Following the line of this study, nondisabled people may be in opposition to the idea of forming an alliance with disabled individuals out of a desire to avoid the feelings and attitudes elicited by the presence of disability.
  8. 8. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 8 Conversely, there is another line of research that suggests that stigma towards people with disabilities may work in a different manner, towards over-helping. The perception that people with disabilities are low in capacity often leads to assumptions of helplessness (Rohmer & Louvet, 2012). People who subscribe to these assumptions may be ​more inclined to help, acting on the belief that the disabled person won’t be able to complete the task without assistance. Supporting this conjecture, there is a robust body of research that indicates people with disabilities “often receive more help than they would like or need” (Braithwaite & Eckstein, 2003, p. 3). Braithwaite and Eckstein (2003) found this to be true even when the cost of helping was high, such as the physically demanding task of pushing a wheelchair. In fact, some participants who used wheelchairs reported nondisabled people taking control of their wheelchair even when they explicitly refused the offer of assistance (Braithwaite & Eckstein, 2003). The pattern of nondisabled people assisting in the face of refusal suggests that the belief that people with disabilities are incapable extends even to the disabled person’s perceptions of needing help. Wang et al. (2015) believe these instances of unsolicited help arise from evaluations of disabled people as low in competence, but high in warmth. Perceptions of warmth facilitate over-helping, by framing the stigma of incompetence as something pitiable, rather than wholly aversive. Doob and Ecker (1970) evaluated the effect of disability on helping behavior in a study similar to that of Soble and Strickland (1974). They argued that feelings of sympathy for disabled people would elicit greater compliance with requests for help. Confederates went door-to-door asking whoever answered the door to complete a questionnaire. Half the confederates wore an eye-patch, while the other half did not. Participants were significantly more likely to accept the questionnaire when the confederate had an eyepatch, suggesting a stronger
  9. 9. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 9 desire to help disabled people than nondisabled people. Due to the global nature of disability stereotypes, it is possible that this same pattern would emerge for people with more severe physical disabilities (Nario-Redmond, 2010). Slochower, Wein, Firstenberg, and DiGuilio (1980) tested just that. The authors criticized previous studies for having a weak disability manipulation, and suggested that a more severe disability would arouse high levels of anxiety and therefore decrease willingness to help. Participants, students at an urban college, were approached by a confederate who either used a wheelchair or did not. The confederates asked participants to donate to the March of Dimes, and donations were counted by two researchers who observed the interactions unobtrusively. Donation results revealed that confederates in wheelchairs received significantly more donations than non-wheelchair confederates. While donating money is not a physically demanding task, if disability arouses the same attitudes of helplessness and pity, the same results may be seen in higher demand scenarios. Other research suggests that the potential helper’s beliefs about their personal capability are more influential than attitudes when deciding whether to help someone. Many people with physical disabilities have a need for instrumental help. This type of help is defined as “something active or physical to help the seeker” (Barbee & Cunningham, 1994, cited in Braithwaite & Eckstein, 2003, p. 3), and may be a barrier to forming alliances, depending on the perceived capability of the individual helping. Ajzen and Madden (1986) investigated the effect of perceived behavioral control on predicted future behavior. They found that the more participants believed they had control over the situation, the more likely they were to say they would complete a particular behavior. Perceived control may be a proxy for perceived capability, since
  10. 10. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 10 requisite knowledge, abilities, and skills were identified as resources needed for control. The perception of lacking these factors with regard to helping a disabled person would decrease perceived behavioral control, and subsequently, the likelihood of engaging in helping behavior. Due to the social isolation of people with disabilities, it is likely that many nondisabled people feel they lack the resources to succeed in a situation where they would be required to provide help to a person with a disability. Feeling disempowered or unable to provide physical assistance to disabled people would therefore decrease the likelihood of offering assistance and, more broadly, pursuing an ally relationship with them. Research concerning barriers to bystander intervention with regards to sexual violence offers support for this position. Bennett, Banyard, and Garnhart (2014) surveyed participants about barriers to providing help in situations where sexual assault or rape may occur. One barrier identified was “failure to intervene due to skills deficit” (p. 486). This interpersonal factor was described as a “lack of confidence in ability to help,” (p. 487) and was mentioned by the highest percentage of participants. Overall, participants who perceived greater barriers were less likely to report engaging in helping behavior. The domains of sexual violence and disability may at first seem unrelated; however, the shared requirement of physical intervention/assistance makes the results of Bennett et al.’s research applicable to the present study. Existing studies have measured behavior, but not the underlying beliefs about personal capability and attitudes that may motivate them. The present study seeks to examine which is more influential when it comes to making the decision to help a person with a physical disability: attitudes toward the need for help or the potential helper’s beliefs about their capacity to help a disabled person. Although willingness to help is not exactly transferable to “ally” behavior, a
  11. 11. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 11 main characteristic that has been found to separate “allies” from low-prejudiced individuals is willingness to offer support (Brown & Ostrove, 2013). Therefore, willingness to offer support, sometimes literal and physical, could be a foundation to forming an alliance across ability. Participants read one of four vignettes that vary by demand (high and low) and perceived stigma (high and low) and then rated their willingness to help in that situation. If attitudes towards people with disabilities are more influential when making the decision to help a person with a disability, there are two divergent possibilities. If participants have a distancing attitude toward disability, then they will be more willing to help in low stigma situations, regardless of demand. An over-helping attitude, however, would cause participants to help more when stigma is high, regardless of demand. Alternatively, if the potential helper’s perceived personal capability is more dominant in this decision-making process, then participants will be more willing to help in low demand situations than in high demand ones, regardless of stigma. Method Participants One hundred sixty-five participants (94 females, 28 males, 2 otherwise-identifying) were recruited through social media (Facebook), email, and word of mouth. Of those participants, 124 provided demographic data (94 females, 28 males, 2 otherwise-identifying, M age = 25.38, age range: 18-63). A majority of participants (n = 104) identified as white. Other racial/ethnic identities included biracial/multiracial (9), Latin@ (6), African American/Black (2), Asian/Asian American (1), and Other (2). Participants were not given any form of compensation for their participation. Procedure
  12. 12. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 12 Participants followed a link either from a Facebook post or email to an online survey created through the Qualtrics platform. After reading a consent form, participants clicked “I agree” to indicate that they were 18 years or older and had read the consent form. On the next page, they were asked to imagine they were riding a city bus. They then read one of four vignettes and rated the likelihood (on a Likert scale of 1-6) that they would help in that scenario. In the low demand scenario, an individual on the bus announces that they need one more signature on their petition. In the high demand scenario, they observed someone on the bus struggling with grocery bags, attempting to get money out to pay the bus fare. These scenarios also varied by level of perceived stigma, with high perceived stigma relating to disability (petition for more jobs for people with disabilities/person struggling with groceries uses a wheelchair) and low perceived stigma not relating to disability (petition for student loan forgiveness/person struggling with groceries is able-bodied) (See Appendix A). After reading the vignette, they completed measures of attitude toward disability. Finally, they were asked to think back to the scenario they had read and rate on a Likert scale of 1-6 how much they could have helped, regardless of whether they wanted to. Participants were also given the option to explain their rating in an open-ended response box. After clicking the next button, they were directed to a page where they entered demographic information (age in years, gender identity, ethnicity, and whether or not they identified as having a disability). Demographics were collected by text entry, so participants were not limited to a set list of choices, except for disability identity, which was a “yes/no” choice. They then clicked the next button again, which took them to the debriefing form, outlining the true nature of the study.
  13. 13. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 13 Randomization procedures were put in place such that an equal number of participants read and responded to each vignette. Design A 2 x 2 factorial design was used in which stigma (high vs low) and demand (high vs low) were both between-subjects variables. The dependent variable was likelihood to help, which was measured using a Likert scale from 1 (Very Unlikely) to 6 (Very Likely). Measures Attitude toward disability was assessed using three measures. First, participants completed an adapted version of the feeling thermometer (Converse & Presser, 1986). Participants feelings towards different groups, including “people with physical disabilities,” were measured via warmth ratings ranging from 0 (very cold, very unfavorable) to 100 (very warm, very favorable). Examples of questions include: “How warm do you feel toward other Macalester Students?” and “How warm do you feel toward members of the Democratic Party?” This type of measure has been used in research regarding attitudes towards various social groups, including racial outgroups (Williamson, Bishop, & Hood, 2014) and LGBT individuals (Haddok, Zanna, & Esses, 1993), as well as research in the field of intergroup contact (Shook, Hopkins, & Koech, 2016). Participants also rated how competent they perceived the same list of groups as in the feelings thermometer measure. Attitude towards out-groups is often assessed along the two dimensions of warmth and competence (e.g. Rohmer & Louvet, 2012). Furthermore, it has been shown that while warmth ratings can increase as a result of exposure to the perspective of disabled people, competence ratings remain low, resulting in an overall negative evaluation of
  14. 14. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 14 the individual (Silverman, Gwinn, & Van Boven, 2015). Therefore, it is important not to conflate a high rating of warmth with a positive attitude toward people with individuals, as it may not coincide with a high rating of competence. Comparing the two ratings will give a holistic view of participants’ attitudes. Finally, participants completed an adapted measure of individualism (Triandis & Gelfand, 1998) to assess attitudes toward independence/self-reliance. Participants rated the extent to which they agreed with nine statements (three from the original measure and six created for this study) regarding individualistic attitudes from 0 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree). Examples of statements include: “I’d rather depend on myself than others,” and “It is important to me that I can do things on my own,” and “It’s better to do things on your own than ask for help” (See Appendix B).​ ​According to Triandis and Gelfand (1998), the reliability of the original scale was found to be good (Cronbach’s α = .67), but it has been substantially modified for the current study. Internal consistency for the current measure was found to be good (Cronbach’s α = .78). Perceived capability was measured by asking participants to reflect on the situation they had previously read. They were asked to rate how much they think they could have helped, regardless of whether they wanted to, on a Likert scale from 1 (Unable) to 6 (Completely able). This was followed by an open-ended “Explain your rating” response box. Results A two-way analysis of variance assessing the effect of demand and stigma on willingness to help indicated a main effect of demand, ​F(1, 154) = 5.91, ​p < .05, such that willingness to help was higher in low demand scenarios (​M = 4.32, ​SD = .173), than in high demand scenarios (​M =
  15. 15. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 15 3.75, ​SD = .158). The main effect of stigma was also significant, ​F(1,154) = 25.58, ​p < .05, such that participants were more likely to help in disability-related scenarios (​M = 4.63, SD = .173) than nondisabled targets (​M = 3.45, SD = .158). The interaction effect was nonsignificant, ​F(1, 154) = .967, ​p > .05 (see Figure 1). Follow-up paired t-tests examined participants’ attitudes toward people with disabilities by comparing their warmth and competence ratings of “people with physical disabilities” compared to their in-group of “students at your college. There were no significant differences in participants’ warmth ratings of “people with physical disabilities” (​M = 72.02) and “students at your college,” (​M = 73.52, ​t[142] = -.872, n.s.) However, there was a significant difference in participants’ competence ratings. “People with physical disabilities” (​M = 67.16) were rated significantly less competent than “students at your college” (​M = 75.44, ​t[132] = -4.97, ​p < .05). [see Figure 2] Discussion This study sought to evaluate the effects of attitudes toward the need for help and the potential helper’s beliefs about their capacity on willingness to help. If participants had a distancing attitude toward disability, then they would have been more willing to help in low stigma situations, regardless of demand. An over-helping attitude, however, would have caused participants to help more when stigma is high, regardless of demand. Alternatively, if the potential helper’s perceived personal capability was more dominant in this decision-making process, then participants would have been more willing to help in low demand situations than in high demand ones, regardless of stigma.
  16. 16. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 16 The results support the over-helping hypothesis. Participants were more likely to help in high stigma situations, even when demand was high. Current research supports the phenomenon of over-helping (Braithwaite & Eckstein, 2003; Wang et al., 2015). Researchers have hypothesized that this trend exists because people with disabilities are seen as requiring outside assistance. Supporting this, the low competence ratings for “People with physical disabilities” compared with “Students at your college” suggests that people with disabilities were indeed perceived as needing help. It is possible that the increased helping in high stigma scenarios was caused by the perception that people with disabilities are incompetent and dependent on able-bodied people intervening. People with disabilities often received unwanted assistance because they are perceived as incompetent, even when they explicitly refuse the offer (Braithwaite & Eckstein, 2003). The response of one participant offers anecdotal support for this interpretation: Possibly, this question was aimed mostly at people who don't use wheelchairs. I happen to use a wheelchair myself. I might hold the groceries for the person or otherwise assist them. However, if I did I would ask first. As a wheelchair user (I hate the expression "wheelchair bound"), I am often offered help and sometimes given it without asking, even for very simple tasks, where 90% of the time help is not needed or wanted. So I am sensitive to that. The person might prefer to get their own stuff. By the way, many wheelchair users are able to help (in a physical way) both other people with disabilities and without. For example, I can hold the door for someone, pick something up, etc...but wheelchair users are usually seen as not capable of much, physically and sometimes mentally.
  17. 17. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 17 There was no difference in warmth ratings between “People with physical disabilities” compared with “Students at your college,” however, which suggests participants’ attitude toward disability and the need for help is characterized more by pity, rather than aversion. The “warm glow” hypothesis of assistance, which suggests that people feel good about helping others, may also be at play here (Braithwaite & Eckstein, 2003, p. 5). Participant responses offer partial support for a “warm glow” effect. Many participants reported that helping others was important to them, citing a “sense of duty.” One participant specifically mentioned people with disabilities as a population they publically support. While on the face of it, a desire to help people with disabilities may seem beneficial, the way in which help is given has serious implications. Help can reinforce stereotypes of people with disabilities as fully dependent, and puts the helper in a “one-up” position (Braithwaite & Eckstein, 2003). Unwanted help can also lower the self-esteem of disabled people, since it implies they are incapable of functioning on their own (Wang et al., 2014). A major limitation of this study was the setting of the vignette. In reviewing participants’ written responses about their capacity to help, it appeared the scenario itself had an unintended effect on behavior. Many participants explained their willingness to help directly in the context of being on a public bus. For example, one participant wrote “The reason why I choose that I would unlikely help the person is because normally sometimes people feel very defensive while riding the bus.” Other participants gave similar responses, stating that their seating position on the bus (e.g. close to the front vs in the back) would have influenced their behavior. In a less ambiguous scenario it is possible that helping behavior would have been different. However,
  18. 18. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 18 based on the responses, it seems as if helping behavior would only ​increase, which does not invalidate the current findings. Future research could approach the question of help from the perspective of people with disabilities, a strategy that is decidedly lacking in the literature (Braithwaite & Eckstein, 2003). Many scholars have written about the importance of including people with disabilities in the research process, transforming their role from subject to researcher (Kitchin, 2000; Stefánsdóttir, & Traustadóttir, 2015). ​Braithwaite and Eckstein (2003) claim that a majority of the research regarding social support has focused on the providers of support, rather than the recipients, and argue for a change. Additionally, research that has been conducted from the point of view of people with disabilities has focused on their ​reactions to help, as opposed to how people with disabilities take an active role in obtaining needed help (Braithwaite & Eckstein, 2003; Wang et al., 2014). Questions could include an inquiry into the types of help that are considered appropriate, as well as ​how people with disabilities would prefer to be helped​. With this information, nondisabled people could be better equipped to help people with disabilities in an appropriate way, which could lay the foundations for an effective ally relationship. Future research should also evaluate other “ally behaviors.” As this study demonstrates, willingness to help is not equivalent to being an ally, if accompanied with negative attitudes surrounding disability. Research investigating desired characteristics of white allies from the perspectives of people of color identified qualities that fall into two areas, “informed action” and “affirmation” (Brown & Ostrove, 2013, p. 2216). Respectively, these include qualities such as “My friend takes action against bias among his or her own racial/ethnic group,” and “My friend is respectful toward me” (Brown & Ostrove, 2013, p. 2216). People with disabilities may desire
  19. 19. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 19 these same qualities in able-bodied allies, have a completely different set of desired qualities, or want a combination of the two. Willingness to help may still be a foundational aspect of forming an alliance, but other factors may be equally or more important and should be identified to assist nondisabled people in forming a holistic ally relationship with disabled people. A third focus of future research should be on changing perceptions of incompetence of disabled people. Researchers could evaluate different methods of information transfer such as media portrayals of disabled people, intergroup contact, or a combination of various methods. Intergroup contact is a common method used to change negative attitudes of outgroup members. While it has been successful in decreasing anxiety and disconfirming stereotypes in some cases (Plant, 2004), intergroup contact can also lead to the creation of “subtypes,” categories of individuals within stereotyped groups who are seen as the exception to the norm (Dunn 2015). Therefore, more research is needed to determine what factors cause intergroup contact to be effective in challenging stereotypic beliefs. Changing perceptions of incompetence is of vital importance if relationships between people with and without disabilities are to transform from helper-helpee dynamics to that of an alliance. More broadly, viewing people with disabilities as competent, capable individuals could lead to larger social changes, such as improving accessibility of public spaces. Wendell (1996) argues that “the public presence of people with disabilities has many potential benefits,” (p. 63), including increasing understanding of disabled people, which in turn lessens negative attitudes toward disability. To date, there is an absence of literature concerning alliances between people with and without disabilities. The present study seeks to ameliorate that absence by exploring a central component of interactions between disabled and nondisabled individuals: offers of help. The
  20. 20. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 20 results of this study suggest that people with disabilities do not suffer from a lack of help as a result of stigma, but rather an abundance of help, perhaps unwanted. Additionally, this study builds on previous literature in establishing that people with disabilities are viewed as comparably warm as in-group members, but less competent. Views of low competence have serious implications for the lives of disabled people, since views of the dominant group (nondisabled people) determine the treatment of people with disabilities, including their access to public spaces and resources. By exploring factors that influence desire to form alliances with people with disabilities, we can work to combat prevailing attitudes that isolate disabled people and keep them from reaching their full potential.
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  23. 23. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 23 Rohmer, O., & Louvet, E. (2012). Implicit measures of the stereotype content associated with disability. ​British Journal of Social Psychology, ​51, 732-740. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8309.2011.02087.x Slochower, J., Wein, L., Firstenberg, S., & DiGuilio, J. (1980). Severe physical handicaps and helping behavior. ​The Journal of Social Psychology, 112, 313-314. doi:10.1080/00224545.1980.9924338 Soble, S. L., & Strickland, L. H. (1974). Physical stigma, interaction, and compliance. ​Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, ​4, 130-132. Triandis, Harry C., & Gelfand, Michele J. (1998). Converging measurement of horizontal and vertical individualism and collectivism. ​Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 118-128. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.74.1.118 Wang, K., Silverman, A., Gwinn, J. D., & Dovidio, J. F. (2015). Independent or ungrateful? Consequences of confronting patronizing help for people with disabilities. ​Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 18, 489-503. Wendell, S. (1996). ​The rejected body: Feminist philosophical reflections on disability. NY: Routledge.
  24. 24. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 24 Figure 1. ​Main effect of stigma and demand, with participants more willing to help in low demand scenarios, and high stigma scenarios
  25. 25. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 25 Figure 2.​ Warmth and competence ratings; there was a nonsignificant difference in participants’ warmth ratings, but a significant difference in their competence ratings, of “students at your college” and “people with physical disabilities”
  26. 26. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 26 Appendix A Vignettes Low demand, low stigma Imagine that you are standing at the bus stop outside your house. You board the bus. At the next stop, an individual boards the bus. They announce they are collecting signatures for a petition asking for student loan forgiveness for local colleges, and that they only need one more signature. How likely is it that you would volunteer to sign the petition? 1 (Very Unlikely) 2 3 4 5 6 (Very Likely) Low demand, high stigma Imagine that you are standing at the bus stop outside your house. You board the bus. At the next stop, an individual boards the bus. They announce they are collecting signatures for a petition asking to build a group home for people with physical disabilities in your neighborhood, and that they only need one more signature. How likely is it that you would volunteer to sign the petition? 1 (Very Unlikely) 2 3 4 5 6 (Very Likely) High demand, low stigma Imagine that you are standing at the bus stop outside your house. You board the bus. At the next stop, an individual boards the bus. They have several bags of groceries on their lap, and are trying to hold onto the groceries while reaching for their purse. How likely is it that you would offer to help hold their groceries while they pay the driver? 1 (Very Unlikely) 2 3 4 5 6 (Very Likely) High demand, high stigma Imagine that you are standing at the bus stop outside your house. You board the bus. At the next stop, an individual boards the bus. They have several bags of groceries on their lap, and are trying to hold onto the groceries while reaching for their purse, which is hanging from the back of their wheelchair. How likely is it that you would offer to help hold their groceries while they pay the driver? 1 (Very Unlikely) 2 3 4 5 6 (Very Likely)
  27. 27. DISABILITY STIGMA AND DEMAND 27 Appendix B Measurement Scale for Individualism Please rate the extent to which you agree with the following statements 1 (Strongly Disagree) 2 3 4 5 6 (Strongly Agree) I’d rather depend on myself than others It’s better to work with others than alone I rely on myself most of the time I prefer to do things with others, rather than on my own It is important to me that I can do things on my own I rely on others most of the time It’s better to do things on your own than ask for help I will ask for help if I need it I like to act and complete tasks independently