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Ableism and Racism Hinder the Quality of Life of Black, Indigenous, People of Color with IDD

By Carli Friedman, CQL Director of Research

Quality of life is multidimensional; many factors impact people with intellectual and developmental disabilities’ (IDD’s) quality of life. For example, where a person with IDD lives impacts their quality of life, with people living in their own and family homes having more outcomes present. The quality of people with IDD’s providers can also improve or hinder their quality of life. Research also indicates ableism and racism negatively impact the health outcomes of Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) with IDD. The aim of this study was to examine the impact of ableism and racism on the quality of life outcomes of BIPOC with IDD. To do so, we analyzed Personal Outcome Measures® data from 1,393 BIPOC with IDD and ableism and racism data from the regions where they lived.

We found that when BIPOC with IDD lived in regions of the United States that were higher in ableism and racism, they had a worse quality of life. In fact, for every 0.1 increase in ableism in the region where they lived, BIPOC with IDD’s quality of life decreased by 4.13 outcomes, regardless of their other demographics. In addition, for every 0.1 increase in racism in the region where they lived, BIPOC with IDD’s quality of life decreased by 5.32 outcomes, regardless of their other demographics.

The Relationship Between Ableism, Racism, and Quality of Life of BIPOC with IDD

Relationship between Region's implicit bias and people's quality of life outcomes. The figure shows that as ableism and racism increase in the regions, the quality of life outcomes decrease. The line for race decreases outcomes at a slightly greater rate than disability.
(This graph controls for people’s demographics; this is why the total quality of life outcomes goes beyond 21.)

“Ableism and racism operate on many levels, not just interpersonal interactions and attitudes. Often, organizations serve BIPOC with IDD unequally, there’s an overall culture that does not prioritize the needs of BIPOC with IDD, and there are systems and structures set up in ways that disadvantage BIPOC with IDD… All of these forms and levels of discrimination, including the intersections between different types of discrimination, lead to the disparities people face, negatively impacting their quality of life, including physical and mental well-being, rights, community integration, relationships, and opportunities and choices. As such, ableism and racism are a direct threat to BIPOC with IDD’s health, wellbeing, and overall quality of life” (Friedman, 2023, p. 7).

This article is a summary of the following journal manuscript: Friedman, C. (2023). Ableism, racism, and the quality of life of Black, Indigenous, people of colour with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 36(3), 604-614.