Attitudinal barriers

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Attitudes towards persons with disabilities, older persons, women or people from cultural minorities can be negative, prejudicial or stereotypical. This can result in over-protecting attitudes or discriminatory practices and contributes to invisibility, exclusion, neglect and mistreatment when disasters occur and in disaster risk reduction activities.

To overcome attitudinal barriers:

  • Foster a respectful and positive attitude of the staff involved in disaster risk reduction 
  • Use gender-, disability- and culturally sensitive language and images.
  • Focus on people’s abilities and capacities, not their disabilities. Start from the assumption that everyone can participate and make their own choices.
  • Ask people about their preferences. For example, most older persons and persons with disabilities live independently and do not need help, others may require assistance.
  • Give people real choices. For example, providing a person with an intellectual disability choices in their daily lives challenges assumptions and creates lasting changes in the way they are treated.

As a rule of thumb: If you are unsure how to behave, ask the person. Anyone will appreciate honesty and genuine interest in their situation and kind of support they might need.


  • Cannon, Dennis. Attitudes toward people with disabilities. 1998.

  • Morris, Jenny. Pride against Prejudice: transforming attitudes to disability. 1991

  • OCR. Developing effective communication in health and social care – Communication theory SOLER. Cambridge. 2012.