Breaking Down Barriers Alongside the Disability Community

Picture of Muna Mohamed and text for the title of the blog: "Breaking down barriers alongside the disability community". Story covers disability inclusion.

When it comes to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, most conversations and efforts are centered around race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. An often overlooked community that comprises all of those identities is the disability community.

People who have disabilities come from various communities and have different lived experiences, perspectives, and needs. Disability is a diverse and multifaceted experience encompassing many physical, sensory, cognitive, and mental health conditions. Each disability faces unique challenges and needs, and intersects with other aspects of a person’s identity, creating a complex and dynamic intersectionality of experiences.

The disability community is one of the only minority groups anyone can join at any time.

Recognizing the diversity of disabilities is essential for creating inclusive and accessible environments that meet the needs of all individuals. By valuing and celebrating the diversity within the disability community, we can work towards a society that embraces and supports all people, regardless of ability.

Disability and difference have been conceptualized in many ways over time, and although we have come far in advancing the dignity and rights of people with disabilities, it can be all too easy to think that how far we have come is “enough” and that no further work needs to be done. While we can celebrate our progress, we also need to acknowledge our current reality — that discrimination, stigma, and prejudice persist and that people with disabilities continue to face barriers that limit their participation in different areas of life.

Let’s explore and highlight some of the most common barriers that people with disabilities face today and what we’re doing here at Lifeworks to break down those barriers.

Physical Barriers

One of the most common barriers that people with disabilities face is physical accessibility. Many buildings, public spaces, and transportation systems are not designed to accommodate people with mobility impairments. This can make it challenging for people with disabilities to access essential services, go to work, or participate in community activities such as going out to eat, visiting a friend, or going for a walk in your neighborhood.

Communication Barriers

For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, finding information or communicating with others can be a challenge. Many public spaces, including government offices, hospitals, and businesses, do not offer American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation or captioning services. This can make it difficult for people who have hearing impairments to understand and communicate effectively.

Attitudinal Barriers

Attitudinal barriers are another significant challenge for people with disabilities. These barriers are rooted in societal attitudes and stereotypes that view people with disabilities as less capable or less valuable. This can lead to discrimination, exclusion, and marginalization. For example, many employers still have biases against hiring people with disabilities, despite their qualifications and abilities.

Economic and Social Barriers

There are economic and social barriers that people with disabilities face. Many people with disabilities live in poverty and struggle to access essential services like healthcare and housing. Social isolation is also a common issue, as people with disabilities may have fewer opportunities to engage in social activities and build relationships.
The barriers that people with disabilities face are numerous and can be challenging to overcome. It’s up to all of us to do our part in creating a more accessible and inclusive society.

At Lifeworks we’re using our Listen. Educate. Navigate.™ approach to advance disability inclusion. Disability inclusion is vital because it promotes diversity and fosters a sense of belonging. When people with disabilities are included in society, they bring their unique perspectives and experiences, which enriches society as a whole.

We listen to and partner with people with disabilities; we educate ourselves and others about disability and how to create inclusive and accessible environments, while supporting people with disabilities navigate the system as direct service providers.

We invite our community to join us in in this critical work by attending Listen. EDUCATE. Navigate.™ A Conversation on Disability Inclusion on June 7 from 7:30 – 9:30 AM at the Wilder Center in Saint Paul. This event is an opportunity for the Lifeworks network to discuss how we can partner with people with disabilities to create truly inclusive communities.

More information and tickets are available on our event page: