Early Attitudes and Their Legacies
Examining the historical treatment toward persons with disabilities contributes insight into the origins of our current common attitudes, particularly fear, rejection, fascination, ridicule and pity. Because such attitudes do not arise in a vacuum-they emerge from the customs, laws and practices of the past-we need to examine their foundations in order to understand them fully. An historical perspective reveals an evolutionary progression and suggests how far our society has come in its acceptance, treatment and integration of persons with disabilities. It also reminds us how far we still have to go: “If society is to deal fairly and honorably with its disabled brothers and sisters, there must be a general understanding and awareness of what should constitute fairness and how society has failed to be fair in the past” (Gallagher, 1995, p. xiii). History can teach us some important comparative lessons.