Stigma toward people with disabilities in Poland and its effects on social integration and policy implementation

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University of Alabama Libraries

The European Union (EU) recognizes the social integration of people with disabilities in society as an economic necessity and fundamental human right. However, not all countries in the EU are equally successful at realizing their goals. Assessing the social integration of people with disabilities in an intra-culturally valid yet cross-culturally replicable and comparative manner is a crucial yet challenging tasks for policy makers. This study employs mixed methods research to investigates stigma toward people with disabilities in Poland in an ethnographically rich, socially and historically contextualized way. Using a novel approach to existing methods in the field of cognitive anthropology, this research provides a quantitative assessment of this stigma in order to demonstrate how this population is socially integrated, versus stigmatized, in the mental-maps of different segments of Polish society. Ethnographic methods and discourse analysis reveal a tension in Polish society between “modern” pro-EU and neo-liberal values and “conservative” nationalistic community orientations. Using consensus analysis and residual agreement these complex social relations were strategically narrowed into measurable units of analysis. My sample of Polish respondents reflect a similar ideological split that was observed in Polish society through my ethnographic data and described in recent literature about Poland. Correlations between cultural values and expectations toward people with a physical disability reveal how diverging ideological views held by different segments of Polish respondents affect the degree to which the differently-abled are integrated in the mental maps of non-disabled citizens. Quantitative results are linked back to broader historical process and current social debates concerning the role and responsibility of individual citizens and of the state, as well as the interwoven social question of “what to do with the disabled,” in post state socialist Poland. I describe how this study may be replicated and how quantitative measures of social integration or stigma, in the form of Pearson correlations, may be compared across cultures.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Cultural anthropology, Disability studies, European studies