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Being Respected Improves People with Disabilities’ Quality of Life

By Carli Friedman, CQL Director of Research

Respect “indicates that we believe someone is a valued person… Respect is how we show our regard for each other… Respectful treatment and interactions enhance [a] person’s self-esteem and result in positive perceptions by others” (The Council on Quality and Leadership, 2017, p. 35). Because of the importance of respect, as well as people with disabilities’ long history of being denied respect, the aim of this CQL study was to examine the relationship between respect and disability, particularly in terms of quality of life. To do so, we analyzed Personal Outcome Measures® data from 1,500 people with disabilities to determine what factors predict people with disabilities being respected, and how being respected impacts people with disabilities’ quality of life.


Findings revealed a number of disparities in terms of who was likely to be respected. For example, women with disabilities were 1.7 times less likely to be respected than men with disabilities. People with higher support needs were also significantly less likely to be respected than those with lower support needs; people with 24/7 support were 7.7 times less likely to be respected than those with support as needed. People with comprehensive behavioral support needs were also 2.0 times less likely to be respected than those without these support needs.

The study also revealed the crucial role disability service organizations can play in promoting the respect of people with disabilities. When organizational supports are in place – when organizations know what is important to the person regarding respect, ensure interactions with the person are respectful, and identify and implement supports that enhance the person’s self-image – people with disabilities are 166.7 times more likely to be respected.

Impact of Organizational Supports on Respect Outcomes

Impact on Quality of Life

Analyses were also run to determine the impact of being respected on quality of life in 20 different indicators. Findings revealed, people with disabilities who are respected have higher quality of life in every single domain, ranging from 1.8 times more likely to realize personal goals, to 8.4 times more likely to be treated fairly compared to those not respected (see figure).

Increased Likelihood of Quality of Life Domain When Respected

According to the United Nations, “while freedom from want and fear are essential they are not enough. All human beings have the right to be treated with dignity and respect” (Annan, 2005, p. 34). Yet, in our study, people with disabilities were less likely to have a number of rights present when they were not respected. Human and civil rights should be inalienable and not depend on others’ attitudes towards you. “Respect of and for [people with disabilities] means not only counteracting continuing discrimination, but recognizing their full personhood, ensuring they have opportunities, including the opportunities to make choices and take risks, and recognizing disability as an identity and community” (Friedman, 2018).


This article is a summary of the following journal manuscript: Friedman, C. (2018). R-E-S-P-E-C-T: The Relationship Between Being Respected and Quality of Life of Disabled People. Disability Studies Quarterly, 38(2).