Charles Dickens may have influenced attitude towards disabled

Tel Aviv: Charles Dickens` works may have gone a long way in influencing social attitudes towards the physically disabled and the mentally ill in Victorian England, says an expert.

Dickens presented the stark realities of the 19th century, including poor medical care and social discrimination against the physically disabled and the mentally ill, says Avi Ohry, professor at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine of Israel`s Tel Aviv University.

During Dickens` time, physical deformities were often interpreted as "outward manifestations of inner depravity" or "punishment for moral failings", Ohry has been quoted as saying by the journal Orthopedia, Traumatologia and Rehabilitacja.

Opinions of Dickens, whose tales are filled with unforgettable characters and plots dealing with painful social discrimination that the disabled faced, may have influenced social attitudes -- the first step towards improved care and non-discriminatory legislation, says Ohry.

Dickens also took care to differentiate between physical handicaps and mental disabilities or illness, another distinguishing feature of his work, adds the specialist in rehabilitation medicine and scholar of the medical humanities, according to a Tel Aviv statement.

This kind of advanced thinking was shaped by Dickens` real life experiences. The author`s own experience of illness and poverty, especially in early adulthood, bred a lifelong interest in medical and social conditions, according to Ohry.

Deeply committed to alleviating the plight of the poor and a frequent visitor at both hospitals and asylums, Dickens maintained close friendships with some of the most notable reformers and doctors of his time.