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Environments: Physical Access

Inaccessible and unfriendly environments which many people with disabilities are forced to endure represent great personal losses: the loss of dignity; the loss of autonomy and self-determination; and the loss of valuable opportunities to learn, grow, and participate.

Kathie Snow

Disability Is Natural Books and Media

People who don’t have disabilities modify their environments and use tools to make life better. People with disabilities may also need modifications in their environments and tools to make life better. This is one in a series of articles about ways to create accessible, friendly, and welcoming environments for all.

Twelve-year-old Joseph is forced to crawl around his house. At school, he independently motors around his classroom and down the halls in his power wheelchair. But his mom thinks his chair is “too big” for the house, and said, “We’d have to rearrange the furniture and get rid of some. And we can’t afford a wheelchair accessible van to transport it.”

Sarah, in her twenties, wants to live in a regular apartment instead of the group home. But the service coordinator says she cannot find an accessible apartment in the neighborhood.

At age six, Cary could be helping more around the house and doing more in school, but because of his short stature, he can’t reach countertops, cabinets, and other things in his home and classroom. Also, his parents and teachers don’t believe Cary has the cognitive ability to do what other six-year-olds do.

Why do these and other situations continue to exist? The answers are varied: lack of awareness, money, selfishness, inaccurate perceptions, laziness, and . . . the list is endless. The examples above are a tiny sampling of the unfriendly, exclusive, inaccessible settings which many individuals with disabilities face every day. While some people may believe the disability is the “problem,” others are realizing that the real “problem” is our attitude about disability, which, in turn gives birth to environmental barriers.


Creating accessible, friendly, and welcoming environments is more than “doing the right thing.” It’s a critical component in ensuring successful lives...Click here to continue.​