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4 Common Barriers for Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities face numerous barriers that often hinder their ability to live a quality life. According to the World Health Organization, persons with disabilities face more than just the physical challenges associated with disability.

While there are some common barriers equally affect persons without disabilities, persons with disabilities face more profound challenges due to the limitations of their disabilities.  

It is important that people understand the common barriers persons with disabilities face in their daily lives. Doing so will be a step closer to addressing them and promoting the inclusivity of persons with disabilities.The four common barriers for persons with disabilities are: 

1. Institutional Barriers

Institutional barriers, also known as systematic barriers, refer to existing policies that unfairly discriminate and hinder persons with disabilities in certain activities. Policy barriers often result from unintentional errors of assumption or omission. Examples of systematic barriers are: 

  • Accepting only one medium for students to express their understanding of course content. 

  • Denying certified persons with disabilities the chance to benefit from federally funded initiatives and services. 

  • Existence of poorly structured procedure when it comes to inclusive learning objectives for a course. 

  • Denying persons with disabilities access to opportunities or services due to physical impairments. 

  • Actions to break down barriers: 

  • Review and develop new policies using a disability lens to account for potential barriers and make programs that are more inclusive. Inclusion of individuals with disabilities in policy formulation initiatives to ensure their interests are represented in the future. 

  • Adoption of Universal Design for Learning to improve the learning process and ensure it is flexible and objective. 

2. Attitudinal barriers

Attitudinal barriers stem from the way people perceive individuals with disabilities. It is no secret that persons with disabilities are often subject to prejudice and discrimination from society. Society often treats them with fear, pity, and contempt and make elaborate decisions to avoid them. Most barriers in this category arise due to a lack of understanding and misconceptions with no factual basis about individuals with a disability. Examples of attitudinal barriers include:

  • Stigma, discrimination, and prejudice - These are manifestations of how society views individuals with a disability. More often than not, people tend to feel like something could have been done to prevent the condition or remedy the disability. It also occurs when people make individuals feel like you are offering them a "favour" by executing their obligations.
  • Stereotyping- It is common practice for individuals within society to assume that people with disability is lacking. People assume individuals with disabilities are inferior, or people with speech impairment cannot comprehend you. The common assumption is that individuals with a disability are unintelligent and incapable of accomplishing any task. Stereotypes also stem from beliefs, for instance, and some people believe that disabilities are a punishment for breaking social norms.

Actions to break down barriers:

  • Respect persons with disabilities
  • Abstain from assumptions concerning the abilities and capabilities of an individual with disabilities
  • Encourage persons with disabilities to express their views and opinions on the challenges they encounter in their lives
  • Promotion of positive attitude towards individuals with disabilities
  • Support initiatives that champion the rights of persons with disabilities

3. Environmental Barriers

These refer to physical barriers present in our environment that hinder persons with disabilities from active community participation. Physical barriers refer to access paths, building designs, and the layout of rooms. Persons with sensory disabilities may fall victim to communication barriers and experience difficulty expressing themselves. These barriers affect the reception and sending of information. Examples of environmental barriers: 

  •  The absence of a weight scale that accommodates persons with challenges standing up. 

  • Steps that hinder persons movement are mobility impairment by denying them access to sidewalks and buildings. 

  • Printed health promotion messages that hinder persons with vision impairments from accessing the message. 

  • The use of technical language or words with complex syllables is a barrier to persons with cognitive impairments. 

  • Use of desks or counters that do not accommodate people on wheelchairs or mobility challenges 
    Actions to break down Barrier: 

  • Ensure that learning materials are electronically accessible to all learners.. Such facilities allow students to record lectures for learning that is more accessible and podcasts and interactive mediums to explain concepts. 

  • Incorporate innovative and creative designs to make sure persons with disabilities have access to facilities with customized resources to facilitate mobility and inclusion.. This creates a conducive environment where persons with disabilities are comfortable.  

  • Use of technology to convey messages to persons with sensory disabilities. 

4. Social Barriers

Social barriers refer to conditions in which people are born, live, learn, and work. They also refer to factors that determine people’s health, thus affecting their functionality. These are evident in that children with disabilities are four times susceptible to experience violence compared to those without disabilities. 

In employment, persons with disabilities face a lot of discrimination and often lag behind persons without disabilities.  In developing countries like Kenya, 80-90 percent of persons with disabilities are unemployed, according to the United Nations (UN) Factsheet on Disability and Employment

Barriers prevent equal representation by denying individuals with disabilities access to rights granted under the UN charter. It is essential to eliminate the barriers that hinder individuals with disabilities from engaging in development programs and other social activities.

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