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Students with Disabilities: Most Common Barriers and Difficulties

disabled students extra time
Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | December 13, 2021 (Last update: December 13, 2021)

Samyak Lalit is an author and disability rights activist. He is a polio survivor and the founder of projects like Kavita Kosh, Gadya Kosh, TechWelkin, WeCapable, Dashamlav and Viklangta Dot Com. Website:

Some countries are more disabled-friendly than others. But, students with disabilities all around the globe face similar barriers in pursuing their education. The degrees of difficulties faced by students may vary from one country to the other but the main problem remains the same – lack of inclusivity. This lack of inclusivity may manifest in different forms such as physical barriers, technological barriers, attitudinal barriers, and failure of the accommodative system, etc.

In this article, we are discussing the most common barriers and difficulties for students with disabilities. These barriers need to be removed to make the education system completely inclusive.

Physical Inaccessibility

This is one of the most prominent barriers for students with disabilities. School and college buildings in most countries lack basic infrastructure to make the institution physically accessible for students with disabilities. These institutions lack ramps for wheelchairs and proper tile markings for blind students. Institutions with multi-level buildings lack elevators or lifts. Washrooms are often inaccessible. Heavy doors and narrow and dimly-lit entrances too make institutions inaccessible for students with disabilities. Higher institutions or universities lack the facility of accessible hostels for students with disabilities.

In some countries where accessibility is required by law, instances have been reported where structures like ramps are built in such a way that they don’t serve their purpose. Accessibility requirements in some countries are fulfilled only on paper.

Some developed countries have an inclusive education system and accessible institutions but most of the students with disabilities around the globe suffer due to a lack of accessible infrastructure in educational institutions. Sometimes when institutions are accessible or somehow accommodate students with disabilities they may face a challenge in getting accessible transportation to take them to and from the institute. In most cases, the burden ultimately falls on the parents to take their ward to and from school in any way they can manage.

Lack of Awareness

Again one of the most common causes that create barriers for students with disabilities is lack of awareness. Interestingly, this lack of awareness hits students with disabilities from multiple directions. Many times parents are unaware of the laws giving equal rights to education to children with disabilities. They lack information about the availability of special schools and special rights provided to disabled students by the law. Things do not become easy even in cases where parents are aware of things and willing to provide education to their disabled children.

disabled students extra time

Authorities in the institutions too are unaware of their duties and the rights of the students with disabilities. Lack of awareness creates barriers at almost every step in developing countries. There are a whole bunch of countries that have ratified the UNCRPD and have formulated laws based on the convention but almost no one is aware of the law. In many cases, the laws have been theorized but there’s no practical implementation on the ground due to lack of awareness. We are trying to do our best by spreading awareness through this website.

Lack of Individualization

This is perhaps the least talked about barrier faced by students with disabilities. In most countries, a blanket approach is used for students with disabilities. These blanket approaches are designed based on preset categories formulated on the basis of disability or weaknesses. The strengths of individual students with disabilities are not assessed. A student with a disability, for example, might be strong and sporty despite her disability but in most cases, institutions fail to recognize these individual strengths and provide the disabled student proper opportunity to develop on her strengths.

Students with some types of disabilities, like students with ADHD, require personalized attention. But, due to the lack of individualization needs of these students are ignored. Teachers are often not trained to provide individual attention where needed. So, they keep on going with the pace of curriculum or the bright students (based on teaching strategy), and some students with disabilities are left behind.

Complex Accommodation Process

Accommodation requirements for students with disabilities are often not met. The entire process in most countries is practically based on the personal ethics of the authorities of the school. The needs of a dwarf student, for example, are very different from a student in a wheelchair. A ramp or such infrastructure is not sufficient for a dwarf student. She may need accommodation in sitting arrangements in her classroom. There’s rarely any quick process for accommodating these types of requirements or special requests.

If the immediate authority of the institution does not show any interest in making the accommodation the student in most cases has no other option. Even in countries where the law provides options, the entire process is complex and time-consuming. The appeal and litigation process is so cumbersome that it becomes almost impossible for students to get into the process. And, students are left with the option to adjust anyhow or just drop out.

Negative Attitude and Stereotypes

Almost every country of the world has some stereotypes and negative connotations related to disability. Being a part of society, educational institutions too are affected by these negative attitudes towards students with disabilities. Not only fellow students but school staff too have been bullies for students with disabilities in many cases. Teachers, in many instances, discourage students with disabilities directly or indirectly to pursue their studies.

However, it must be noted that in many instances teachers have proved to be the strongest support for students with disabilities. It entirely depends on the individual nature. But, overall the attitude of people towards disability is negative and that reflects in educational institutions. In some countries, the stereotypes are so strong that all students with disabilities are given education in separate institutions, and parents of non-disabled students protest the admission of any disabled student with their children. You can read about the social status of persons with disabilities in different countries in detail in our specific articles about these countries.

Unavailability or Lack of Accessible Study Materials

This barrier is faced mostly by students with low vision or blindness and this is perhaps the biggest hurdle for them. Study materials in accessible formats say braille or audiobooks, are either unavailable or available at a cost unaffordable for a student. Most of the institutions around the globe put no extra effort to arrange study materials for their blind students. The students are completely dependent on listening and remembering class lectures or on a classmate who is helpful enough. Even in this modern age where technology can be used to solve the issue without much effort situations have not changed much for blind students.

Use the citation below to add this article to your bibliography

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4 responses to “Students with Disabilities: Most Common Barriers and Difficulties”

  1. Avatar amare atnafu says:

    i am lucky when i read it and using it as an article review for the purpose of my research thesis proposal.

  2. Avatar Britta Beneke says:

    Dear Lalit,
    I find your articles very interesting and informative!
    I stumbled across your work because I am researching the inclusive classroom experience of students and teaching staff and how inclusion resonates with parents of students with and without disabilities and disorders for my Master’s degree in Global Cultures.

    I agree with you that there are many favourable laws and policies, but too often, they are not implemented completely. I also think that although barriers are identified and removed, the most significant barriers exist in people’s minds and hearts because they did not grow up with a special needs person.

    My research is focused on Germany’s new policies on inclusion. In particular in the region of Bremen, where I live and work as a personal assistant to a teenager with multiple disabilities. I see every day how teachers misinterpret his situation and, in consequence, his capabilities and possibilities.

    It drives me crazy that labeling and judging a person having a disability is done too quickly and especially the lasting impact of it.

    I would love to hear about your experience in school or university and how you felt during your education. I would, of course, respect your privacy and only share details you are comfortable with.

    Best regards,


  3. Avatar Felicia MM. says:

    Dear Lalit
    Thank you for an informative article. I certainly agree with you, there is lack of awareness and negative connotation around disabilities.

  4. Avatar Eltaher Ali Eltaher says:

    Thank you for these useful topic , I used when I prepare my class

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