On the 2000 US Census, more than 3.2 million Floridians, or 22.2% of the state’s population, reported having a disability. Public understanding and awareness of disability is important to assure that persons with a disability are not discriminated against and also that they are included in planning for programs and services. In order to serve the growing number of Floridians with disabilities, the Florida Office on Disability & Health, or FODH, was established at the University of Florida through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In response to the interest of its partners, the FODH identified existing questions about disability perceptions to be pilot tested on the Florida Consumer Sentiment Index (FCCI). The goal was to assess how well the questions were understood by respondents and to assess whether any of the questions could be used to form scales.
Results revealed some differences in perceptions about disability and experiences among Floridians with and without disability. Based on a very small group of individuals with disability, results indicated that items measuring disability perceptions may be used as individual indicators, but not as a summary measure. Results were used to decide which of the pilot tested questions the FODH would propose to have included on a statewide survey, the Florida Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). By expanding the study to the BRFSS, we will have a larger sample and will be able to more fully explore the differences in perception and experience among people with and without disability in the state. BRFSS results will be used to develop a public awareness campaign to be implemented statewide to increase understanding of disability and help to better align the perceptions of disability and disability-sensitive behavior among all state residents.