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Changing Attitudes: Understanding Barriers To Accessibility

Barriers are obstacles — things that stand in the way of people with disabilities doing many of the day-to-day activities that most of us take for granted. Barriers make shopping, working, going to a movie or taking public transit difficult, sometimes impossible, for people with disabilities.

There are many kinds of barriers:

Architectural and physical barriers are features of buildings or spaces that cause problems for people with disabilities. Examples are:

  • Hallways and doorways that are too narrow for a person using a wheelchair, electric scooter or walker
  • Counters that are too high for a person of short stature
  • Poor lighting for people with low vision
  • Doorknobs that are difficult for people with arthritis to grasp
  • Parking spaces that are too narrow for a driver who uses a wheelchair
  • Telephones that are not equipped with telecommunications devices for people who are Deaf, deafened or hard of hearing

Information or communications barriers happen when a person can’t easily understand information. Examples are:

  • Print is too small to read
  • Websites that don’t support screen-reading software
  • Signs that are not clear or easily understood

Attitudinal barriers are those that discriminate against people with disabilities. Examples are:

  • Thinking that people with disabilities are inferior
  • Assuming that a person who has a speech impairment can’t understand you

Technology barriers occur when a technology can’t be modified to support various assistive devices. An example is:

  • A website that doesn’t support screen-reading software

Systemic barriers are an organization’s policies, practices or procedures that discriminate against people with disabilities. An example is:

  • A hiring process that is not open to people with disabilities


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