The study described in the following article investigated the attitudes of occupational therapy personnel toward persons with disabilities. The examination involved attitudes in general as measured by the Scale of Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons (SADP) (Antonak, 1981), specific attitudes toward infants with Down’s syndrome, beliefs concerning the importance of favorable attitudes toward patients, and beliefs concerning the role of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) in the development of ethical guidelines for the delivery of health care services.
The results of a survey of 619 occupational therapy personnel indicate that they hold a very favorable attitude toward persons with disabilities, and that they believe that a negative attitude would adversely affect the therapeutic relationship. The majority agree that the expression of a favorable attitude should be a criterion in student selection. The majority also agree that AOTA should develop position papers on ethical issues and take a public position on issues pertinent to the rights of the disabled person.
Occupational therapy personnel proved to be very homogeneous on the general attitudinal scale. However, the Down’s syndrome scenario uncovered significant differences among the different categories of respondents in the variables for professional level, area of practice, years of practice, and geographic location. A majority of respondents agreed that it is unethical to withhold needed surgery from a child because of disability. However, they differed on the ethics of aborting a fetus with Down’s syndrome (most thought it was unethical).