Accessibility for people with different kinds of disabilities in community organizations in Amsterdam

Friday, November 1, 2013
First author:
Zal S. van
Adapting the Environment II

Researcher at the Knowledge and Development Centre for Society and Law, University of Applied Sciences Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

All authors:

Stefanie van Zal

Empowerment & Environment


Because of budget cuts in the Netherlands, people with disabilities can no longer apply for individual and professional assistance to participate in society. Therefore, improving accessibility of more general organizations such as community and welfare organizations has become very important. Its challenging to improve accessibility for people with all different disabilities equally. Not all needs for adjustments or help are equally viable or practical. Here the question rises how to provide equal access to people with different disabilities such as physical, intellectual, psychiatric or sensory disabilities.

The local government in Amsterdam has stimulated such organizations to improve accessibility by funding training and stimulating policy changes. In this research these efforts to improve accessibility will be evaluated.


To evaluate the efforts to improve accessibility, both employees and visitors of such community organizations have been interviewed. In total there have been two measurements of group interviews with 70 employees, and three measurements of pre structured interviews with 250 visitors of such organizations. In this presentation I will mainly focus on the connection between the results of the employee group interviews and the theoretical background of the social model of disability and its applicability to certain types of disabilities.


Employees of community organizations had great difficulty providing equal accessibility for people with different disabilities. The 3 main difficulties they defined were:

  1. Stimulating acceptance and equality for people with stigmatized disabilities among visitors
  2. Recognizing and anticipating on invisible or fluctuating disabilities
  3. Dealing with people whose disability intervenes with their behavior.


These results give an overarching view on why relying on accessibility as a means of social inclusion can be problematic for people with certain kinds of disabilities. Those with stigmatized, invisible or fluctuating disabilities and/or symptoms that intervene with their behavior might therefore be disproportionately harmed by the measure to cut the individual support from the budget and improve accessibility instead.