“When They See a Wheelchair, They’ve Not Even Seen Me”—Factors Shaping the Experience of Disability Stigma and Discrimination in Kenya
Stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs towards disability represent one of the most pervasive and complex barriers that limits access to health care, education, employment, civic rights and opportunities for socialization for people with disabilities [1,2,3]. The damaging impact of disability stigma is widely acknowledged and, according to article 8 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities, developing strategies, campaigns, policies and other initiatives to combat disability stigma and ensure that all people with disabilities are treated with dignity and respect is also a duty of the 182 countries who ratified the treaty . Although the majority of literature focused on understanding disability stigma has been carried out in high-income settings [5,6,7], in the last decade, an increasing number of scholars have conducted studies looking at the negative stereotypes, prejudices and inaccurate beliefs that shape disability stigma in the Global South [3,8,9,10]. Most of these studies have described how these stigmatizing beliefs are often driven by a combination of personal and societal factors, ranging from misconceptions concerning the causes of different impairments (e.g., disability to be seen as a form of curse or punishment); assumptions about the lack of capabilities of people with disabilities; or discriminatory practices that actively endorse separation between people with and without disabilities [3,9,11,12]. Yet, there is a dearth of comparative studies that examine the perspectives of both people with and without disabilities of disability stigma and discrimination, including how the use of assistive technology may shape stigmatizing interactions.
Disability stigma in many low- and middle-income countries represents one of the most pervasive barriers preventing people with disabilities from accessing equal rights and opportunities, including the uptake of available assistive technology (AT). Previous studies have rarely examined how disability stigma may be shaped through factors endemic to social interactions, including how the use of assistive technology itself may precipitate or alleviate disability stigma. Through two strands of work, we address this gap. Via a series of focus groups with Kenyans without disabilities (Study 1) and secondary data analysis of consultations with Kenyans with disabilities and their allies (Study 2), we identify shared and divergent understandings of what shapes disability stigma and discrimination. Specifically, Kenyans with and without disabilities were cognizant of how religious/spiritual interpretations of disability, conceptions of impairments as “different” from the norm, and social stereotypes about (dis)ability shaped the experience of stigma and discrimination. Moreover, both groups highlighted assistive technology as an influential factor that served to identify or “mark” someone as having a disability. However, whereas participants without disabilities saw assistive technology purely as an enabler to overcome stigma, participants with disabilities also noted that, in some cases, use of assistive technologies would attract stigma from others.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health; 2021