Institutional barriers

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Institutional barriers are laws, policies, guidelines, or procedures that systematically disadvantage certain groups of people. They are often the result of a lack of awareness of people involved in writing legislation and policies or the lack of awareness and experience of those who lead and facilitate procedures.


  • A legislation that do not recognise persons with mental health conditions or intellectual disabilities with legal capacity.
  • A vocational training center whose policy states that the institution will only enroll candidates who are psychologically, intellectually and physically fit to work. 
  • A bank whose policy states that a clients signature has to match that of their identity cards, creating barriers for older persons, persons with chronic illnesses, or persons with physical and mental disabilities.
  • A registration procedure for a financial aid scheme for disaster victims is too complex to understand for persons with mental health conditions or intellectual disabilities.

To overcome institutional barriers:

  • Analyse policies and procedures together with persons with disabilities and other at-risk groups to identify barriers.
  • Adjust your own organisation's policies and procedures to remove institutional barriers and create conditions which are conducive to the inclusion of women and men with disabilities and other diverse backgrounds.
  • Engage policy makers/decision makers to highlight institutional barriers in the laws, policies and procedures they can shape. Involve representative groups in your advocacy work. 
  • Provide specific support or reasonable accommodation to individuals in the community to ensure they can access services and participate equally despite institutional barriers.