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Best Countries for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Firefly by Firefly Additional Needs



The tension of feeling a public outcast only adds to the challenges you face as a parent.

You find yourself cycling through an endless argument with yourself and sometimes with your spouse and other family members:

“He’s just going to need to get a thick skin.”

“Maybe she needs to be in a special school where the other kids are more like her, so these things wouldn’t be happening all the time.”

“Surely there’s someplace we could go where people would be more accepting.”

At least when it comes to children with intellectual disabilities, the answer is: there may in fact be someplace where people are more accepting.

The Gallup organization polled people in 112 of the world’s 195 countries about their attitudes to people with intellectual disabilities.

Gallup used the definition of, “intellectual disability”, familiar from the Special Olympics, which now encompass athletes from 150 countries. That organisation defines an, “intellectual disability”, as a condition which meets three criteria:

  • An IQ below 70 to 75
  • Significant limitations in at least two skill areas
  • Begins before age 18

Most Welcoming Countries for Intellectual Disabilities

Gallup asked citizens, “Is the city or area where you live a good place or not a good place for people with intellectual disabilities?” Based on the Gallup poll, the countries most accepting of people with intellectual disabilities are these:

  • Europe: The Netherlands – 91 percent “good place”
  • Australasia: New Zealand – 90 percent  “good place”
  • The Americas: Canada – 86 percent “good place”
  • Middle East and North Africa: Syria – 79 percent “good place”
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: Mali – 74 percent “good place”
  • Former Soviet Union: Belarus – 56 percent “good place”
The countries where at least 75 percent of adults surveyed thought their country was a, “good place”, for people with intellectual disabilities, according to the poll, were these:
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Germany
  • United Kingdom
  • Austria
  • Uruguay
  • Spain
  • Canada
  • Argentina
  • Luxembourg
  • Ireland
  • Denmark
  • Sweden
  • Belgium
  • United States
  • Portugal
  • Malta
  • Slovenia
  • Australia
  • Syria
  • Cyprus
  • Morocco
  • Taiwan
  • France
  • Ecuador
  • Finland

Least Welcoming Countries for Intellectual Disabilities

The countries where fewer than 5 in 10 adults thought their country was a, “good place”, for people with intellectual disabilities included many countries where economies are still developing.

This matches up with Gallup’s finding that income and education influence a person’s sense that the community is a, “good place”, for those with intellectual challenges.

Countries where incomes and educational attainment are almost uniformly low tend to be places where people believe their communities are not good places for people with intellectual disabilities.

Some countries frequently under military threat, including many nations in the Middle East, did not consider themselves good places for those with intellectual disabilities.

This undoubtedly represents families’ urge to protect their challenged children and should be put to their credit.


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