A stratified survey in 3 areas in June 1993 to determine the existing attitudes and knowledge about disability prior to commencing a public education programme. The 3 areas had 300 persons each, of 5 age (15 to 59) and 12 occupational groups with a minimum of 30 in each group. The questions were divided into 5 main categories, namely, supernatural beliefs, misconceptions about behaviour and expectations for people with disabilities, denial of human rights, feelings of competency and willingness to help people with disabilities, and knowledge about disability services.
Supernatural beliefs were held by a significant minority of Jamaicans, with superstitions less prevalent (18%) than the idea that disabled children are "sent by God" (40%). These beliefs are significant if held by parents, because they may interfere with intervention efforts or may encourage isolation and "putting away the child". Perhaps these are also the reasons for some of the most pervasive misconceptions, that is, the preference for special schools and special homes. The most negative misconceptions were rejected by an average of 68% of persons, though a realistic 26% thought that disabled persons could be a burden sometimes. People are not aware that people with disabilities can get adequate training and rehabilitation in their own homes. The need for training seems to be well accepted, but the rights to full participation and equality of opportunity are not. Questions on job opportunities and the cost of services showed that only 50% of the respondents recognised the equal rights of people with disabilities to education and jobs. The positive assertion by 96% that programmes should be shared by the government and the community, was accompanied by an expression of personal willingness to help a neighbour or to volunteer if training was provided. It was concluded that the most significant barriers will be some persistent supernatural beliefs, lack of awareness of the possibility that community and home based services can be effective, the persistent belief that special institutions are best, and the lack of recognition of some human rights, particularly full participation, integration and equality of opportunity. There does however, appear to be a willingness to help.