The Difficulties for People with Disabilities

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The definition of someone with a disability according to the ‘Disability Act 2005’, refers to a fundamental restriction, in the capability of the person to carry out a profession, business or occupation or to participate in social or cultural life. By reason of experiencing physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual impairment. People who have a disability can experience a wide range of challenges and difficulties, in everyday life. Some of these barriers and challenges may be simple as communication, physical, social and transportation barriers. Unfortunately, this may impact on their health and their access to healthcare as it may be a challenge for them to travel to the healthcare setting and communicate with the healthcare professional. For the purpose of this essay I’m going to discuss the challenges and difficulties in the daily lives of people with a physical disability, in particular someone in a wheelchair.


Wheelchair users can find the simple and vital things in life a huge challenge. Two of these challenges experienced which this essay will be discussing are communication challenges and physical barriers.

Communication Challenges

Failure of healthcare professionals to communicate effectively and significantly with people with physical disabilities (wheelchair users) is a major challenge to distribute the quality health care for people with disabilities (National League for Nursing, 2017). Speech, language use and pragmatic functioning may be some delays that can be experienced in their lives (Jackson, Cavenagh and Clibbens, 2014). Not being able to talk and listen with ease can bring frustration. People in a wheelchair may experience problems when they are not able to put their feelings into words or to express themselves in anyway.

One of the difficulties of communicating may be due to the attitude behaviour of others. Negative attitudes can lead to behaviour such as discrimination, lack of support and treating someone different (National Disability Authority, National Survey of Public Attitudes to Disability in Ireland, 2017). This is followed by difficulties to obtain employment and teachers and students rejecting or ignoring the student in the wheelchair. This can impact hugely on the individual’s self- esteem. They will lose their confidence and communicating with these people could be a difficulty for them. The language used towards people in a wheelchair when communicating is another daily challenge. People don’t use ‘people-first’ language when communicating with the wheelchair user. This refers to putting the person first and their disability second (Lawton Henry, 2019). Wheelchair users won’t feel comfortable communicating with the person who doesn’t use this approach. In an interview performed by ‘International Journal of language and communication barriers’, some individuals with a disability described experiences when they had participated in the conversation but had not been ‘heard’ by other participants. Some people think they have to speak louder and slower to people in a wheelchair. This assumption should not be made because of their disability. For example, a person with cerebral palsy might be a wheelchair user, have uncontrolled upper body movement and may have a difficulty speaking but, yet have very good hearing and intelligence (Lawton Henry, 2019).

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This can impact negatively on their health and their access to healthcare. Firstly, lack of communication with others daily can lead to feelings of loneliness and no self- worth. This can lower the person’s self- esteem affecting their everyday mental health. Their communication skills may simply not be standard and therefore, communicating with the healthcare professionals may be a barrier.

In order to participate in today’s society, one needs to have the ability to engage with ‘remote’ communication, which involves texting, e-mail, phone calls etc (Buchholz, Ferm and Holmgren, 2018). Often communication affects an individual’s understanding. Furthermore, this can impact negatively on individual’s ‘self-esteem’ ((Jackson, Cavenagh and Clibbens, 2014). Some of the barriers to communication may be lack of appropriate resources, staff knowledge, communication supports and skills. Assistive Technology (AT) may be a requirement for some wheelchair users to communicate. The technology could be a huge challenge in their everyday lives as it could be very difficult to use. However, it is essential to support independent living across the life cycle (Cullen, McAnaney, Dolphin, Delaney and Stapleton, 2012) It’s clear communication can be a massive challenge for someone in a wheelchair. Communicating is one of the everyday activities and can put huge pressure on the individual.

Physical Difficulties:

Being able to do some things by themselves is an important part of a wheelchair user being full independent. This involves being able to push their wheelchair alone if possible. Being a wheelchair user can create difficulties in the physical and built environment especially when there is obstructions and obstacles present (Lindsay, Morales, Yantzi, Vincent, Howell, and Edwards, 2014). Some of these obstructions may be simple as steps or potholes that can block a person with mobility impairment from having access to a building or the absence of a weight scale that accommodates wheelchair users e.g. in a lift. Home environments may also be another physical difficulty if the modifications are not achieved to suit the person in the wheelchair These challenges that occur every day could impact negatively on their access to healthcare settings if the building is not disability- friendly. Parts of the home, healthcare settings and other buildings and its surroundings should be modified to suit the impairments of the person and to minimise the daily difficulties in their lives.

People who use wheelchairs face many barriers to take part in physical activity which includes fitness, obesity, well- being and health (O'Brien, Noyes, Spencer, Kubis, Edwards, Bray, and Whitaker, 2014). The low levels of participation in physical activity and sport by people in wheelchairs are due to the barriers involved such as poor physical education (PE) provision in schools, lack of information, knowledge of the resources available, transport difficulties, lack of experience and lack of confidence (, 2019). Low levels of physical activity in wheelchair users appears to be a large issue. This can increase their risk of developing heart diseases and obesity in later life. It was proven that carers felt that wheelchair users and their family carers preferred sedentary activities due to the barriers, resulting in inactive lifestyles (Cartwright, Reid, Hammersley and Walley, 2016).

Another physical challenge experienced by wheelchair users in their everyday lives is employment opportunities. Unfortunately, wheelchair users are less likely to be employed due to the barriers, resulting in less income for everyday living. This puts financial restrictions on the individual as well as a lack of physical activity each day. The challenges and barriers to work for people in a wheelchair include having poor or no work experience, having low educational attainment, not having family support, being discriminated against, disability- friendly workplaces etc (Jang, Wang, and Lin, 2013). Employment is an important pathway to social inclusion and will result in improved self-esteem and quality of life and unfortunately not everyone with a disability will be able to experience this. It can lead to many health issues. Furthermore, it can also negatively impact on the individuals access to healthcare as they won’t have the financial needs.

Transportation barriers is another physical challenged experienced each day. In particular public transport. For wheelchair users, this challenge is not just fiction, but a daily struggle. One example of a transportation challenge I witnessed recently on the way to college occurred one morning on a public bus. At a bus stop someone in a wheelchair was queuing to get on but there was one other person in a wheelchair and a baby in a buggy already on the bus, therefore there was no space for the second wheelchair due to lack of space available. The person in the wheelchair couldn’t get on and I noticed the frustration in his face as he needed to be somewhere on time and had to wait for the next bus. Lack of access to accessible public transportation is a huge challenge at busy times. The fact that most public transport technologies are ‘state-of-the-art’ technologies means no matter how simple or complicated they are to use, people with a disability may find them incomprehensible to use. A large number of urban and inter- urban transport systems remain very difficult to use for passengers with disabilities, turning the shortest trip into a logistical nightmare. This is a huge daily struggle in the lives of people with a disability. It’s clear that there are many physical challenges that wheelchair users experience in their daily lives. This can certainly affect their health and their access to healthcare. It’s essential that any simple obstructions on the footpath are cleared as the smallest things can make a difference.


To conclude, there are many challenges that people with disabilities experience in their everyday lives. In particular, this essay discussed the challenges experienced in the daily lives of wheelchair users. Communication difficulties and physical barriers are a huge aspect in the lives of people in wheelchairs These can negatively impact on their health and also inhibit their access to healthcare. People with a disability need to be included in all activities, treated equally, supported by others, not discriminated against in order to eliminate these challenges which they experience.

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