Chapter 8. Beyond Contact: Promoting Social Change and Disability Justice
Historically, prejudice-reduction interventions have failed to evaluate the perspectives of those targeted – members of minority groups (cf. Makas 1988). Furthermore, many interventions detract attention away from group-based disparities or minimize the importance of cultural identities (Wright and Lubensky 2009). Others have been criticized as promoting assimilative forms of inclusion which perpetuate minority disadvantage (Saguy et al. 2009). The final chapter of this volume addresses these limitations and provides an agenda for future research and sustainable social change.
To date, prejudice-reduction programs have not been in the service of challenging intergroup inequalities. Instead, they focus more on increasing interpersonal liking and tolerance. It has been assumed that once advantaged group members change their attitudes, they will stop discriminating and open the doors of opportunity to the passive disadvantaged. To address these assumptions, lessons from the literature on collective action and the work of disabled people in changing ableist practices is reviewed. Specifically, this chapter synthesizes research on the outcomes of the disability rights movement, and the role of disability advocacy in addressing ableism and disability discrimination (Barnartt et al. 2001). Consistent with the social justice orientation of disability studies, an approach that applies the study of ableism for social change requires the integration of research about why stereotypes and cultural beliefs allow for ableist behaviors, how group identities influence feelings of threat and empathy, and how these reactions facilitate or impede self-advocacy and allyship.
Arguably, among the most enduring, positive impacts on ableist practices have been policy-based, including structural changes for inclusive integration at school and work, access to the built environment, and anti-discrimination legislation. This final chapter describes some of the latest research on the role of nondisabled allies (Ostrove et al. 2009), and the utility of coalition building across multiple minority groups. Finally, an agenda for future research is suggested that focuses on perceptions of intergroup injustice and behavioral change (e.g. volunteering, donating, protesting), including a clearer specification on what is meant by social change and the need to differentiate between compensatory, preferential, and mutually beneficial strategies for transformation.