Attitudinal barriers

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***COVID-19 specific information***

Experience has shown that a crisis of any kind tends to increase the cultural beliefs embedded in everyone. Thus, seemingly benign stereotypes that devalue people with disabilities and the elderly can be a barrier to access to health care.
To ensure that pervasive prejudices that some people are more expendable than others do not lead to policy delays and promote risky behaviours towards them, inclusive preparedness measures must be put in place. A twin-track approach at each stage of preparation, as well as inclusive disability communication and information, will help to minimize these discriminatory attitudes.


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.