A Person Touching a Braille Book

Impairments vs Barriers: Disability Defined

By Nicodemus Nyakundi

Sightsavers, a charity organisation promoting and supporting the social inclusion of blind children and adults, organised a training on Inclusive Education (IE) in early February. 

This training aimed to disseminate the meaning of inclusive education and ways of providing children with disabilities with safe, quality, and equitable educational opportunities. 

As an advocate of ICT inclusivity at KICTANet, and my desire to see full accessibility in all spaces and platforms, this training was therefore of interest to me.

This event sought to expound on inclusive education as a means of promoting problem-solving, coordination and support for inclusion at community and school levels. 

In Addition, it sought to introduce the idea of inclusive education in Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the role of Organisations working with Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) in coordinating and supporting children with disabilities.

I focused on the definition of disability per the United Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). I realised that we could achieve inclusivity when understanding that disability results from impairment and barriers.

READ: Are We Missing The Point in How We Define Disability?

Barriers bar one from achieving full participation. Impairments make people with disabilities susceptible to these barriers. 

In cases of permanent disabilities, impairments remain unchanged, for instance, loss of vision. Persons with disabilities, therefore, look for ways to manoeuvre around these barriers and obstacles resulting from their impairments. 

Wheelchair users have to go for ramps rather than the stairs; the blind use their white canes to avoid obstacles along their way and the deaf rely on sign language and captions to communicate with others. 

If they fail to overcome these barriers, we would say they have been disabled from achieving their goal. 

These, therefore, make disability a result of the interaction between impairment and barriers. 

An inclusive environment or platform is devoid of barriers. If we achieve inclusivity, we would not be talking about disability but rather empowering each other to achieve their life goals. 

Inclusive ICT platforms would ensure full information access to all, and an inclusive education system would see all children effectively partaking in learning and other extra-curriculum activities.


Nicodemus Nyakundi is an ICT Access and Equality Fellow for PwDs at KICTANet. He has a background in  Information Technology.



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