UCL Grand Challenges


Challenging intellectual disability stigma

28 July 2017

A UCL group has looked into stigma faced by those with intellectual disabilities around the world.

A UCL group led by Dr Katrina Scior from the Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology and Dr Maria Kett from UCL Epidemiology and Public Health have created resources to highlight and address stigma faced by people with intellectual disabilities. The ultimate aim of this work is to reduce prejudice and discrimination experienced by children and adults with intellectual disabilities and their families around the world.

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The project was one of the first funded by the Grand Challenge of Justice and Equality, since it was established in 2016.

The project team set up a number of linked resources to achieve their aim of creating new routes for both disseminating UCL work and research aimed at advancing our understanding of intellectual disability stigma and effective interventions that challenge it, and that allow contributors from around the world to share their work in this area.

This project was inspired by the findings from a previous global review of intellectual disability stigma completed by Dr Scior and her team that was funded by Grand Challenge of Global Health and completed in 2015. (Read news - Global call to stop disability stigma arises out of Small Grant project)

This project highlighted that there is a lot of diverse and innovative work taking place around the world but there are few avenues for sharing such work and insights it generates as a lot of it is happening in non-English speaking countries and is often not suitable for publication in the academic literature. As such for the latest Grand Challenge project the team set out to create innovative routes for dissemination, namely a blog and accompanying YouTube channel focused on intellectual disability stigma. 

The blog was set up in late 2016 and thus far features contributions by people with intellectual disabilities who seek to challenge prejudice through self-advocacy and the Arts, and by researchers. 

As the blog becomes more widely known, the project team hopes to feature contributions from academic colleagues, service providers, self-advocates with intellectual disabilities and disability organisations around the world.

The YouTube channel was set up in early 2017 and features stories from around the world, as well as film based interventions that were the focus of randomised controlled evaluations conducted by UCL researchers. The most recent contributions were by Deborah Odukoya and Winfred Chege, two UCL postgraduate students who filmed first-hand accounts by people with intellectual disabilities in Kenya and Nigeria regarding the intense stigma they often face because of their disability.

The latest development leading on from the new resources has been the establishment of the UCL Unit for Stigma Research (UCLUS) as a way of bringing the range of stigma research conducted by members of Dr Scior's group under one umbrella. 

UCLUS conducts research in the intellectual disability field but also in relation to mental health stigma and dementia. You can follow UCLUS on Twitter at @Uclusresearch, where a larger and much broader audience is also being directed towards the intellectual disability stigma resources the team have created. As such, an understanding of stigma as it affects people with intellectual disabilities and their families, and of interventions designed to reduce such stigma, is being brought to a large and diverse audience, often unaware of stigma specifically associated with intellectual disability.