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The Barriers Concept

One thing people with all types of disabilities have in common is barriers.  The Independent Living movement is about removing those barriers, whatever they are and joining together all disabilities to advocate for each other as well as one’s self.   The world was designed for John Q Public… who, wouldn’t you know, doesn’t have a disability.    If the majority of people were all blind the world would be set up differently.   Perhaps we would still be riding horses that know the way.  We might all know Braille and the printed word would be obsolete until computers came along; you can bet there would not be low hanging branches over sidewalks for us to smash into.   No coat hangers off the wall that come out at just above eye level to bash is in the forehead without warning as we walk down the hallway.   To many people, lights would not be so important and to others even more important.     We might have ropes for walkways to slide our hands on to find our way.   Stories would be descriptive audio instead of visual like movies. Having a Seeing Eye dog might be as popular as cars are now.

Barriers come in different types and it helps to know them so you are aware of where you find them.

The barriers which restrict or prevent people from performing or participating and which are the focus of advocacy efforts often fall in the following areas:

Structural                        Communication

Social/Attitudinal              Economic

Psychological                    Programmatic


Structural /Architectural  Barriers restrict or prevent a person from free and independent movement from one place to another.

Example:  A flight of stairs can prevent a person in a wheelchair from entering a building.

Social/Attitudinal Barriers represents attitudes or personal beliefs of members of our society that are based on prejudice regarding a particular disability or people with disabilities in general.

Example: A non disabled person is hired for a job over a person with a disability even though that person’s qualifications are equal to or better than the non-disabled person’s.

Psychological Barriers are barriers maintained by people with disabilities themselves.  They exist when individuals have learned to believe that they are not capable.

Example:  A person sees no point in going to school to learn a skill, because they do not think they would get hired for a job anyway

Communication Barriers prevent the free and independent exchange of information.

Examples: A deaf person cannot use an ordinary telephone or join a meeting because they cannot hear the person’s voice.

Economic Barriers exist such that people cannot afford basics, cannot gain access to basic opportunities.

Example: A person with an illness may face high medical costs yet be unable to acquire health insurance at a reasonable cost or at all.

Programmatic Barriers exist when needs of people with disabilities are not taken into consideration in the planning of a new program or activity.

Example: A senior service that provides van service but does not provide a lift for seniors with wheelchairs therefore the senior program is not accessible to wheelchair users.

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