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Restricted participation: Drivers, experiences and implications of disability stigma in Ethiopia


Background: Community-based inclusive development (CBID) acknowledges society’s critical role in supporting the active participation of persons with disabilities. However, research on how this approach relates to the context-sensitive socially situated barriers of disability stigma is underexplored.

Objectives: This study aimed to understand the drivers and experiences of disability stigma in Ethiopia, from the perspective of persons with disabilities engaged in CBID programmes, and to establish how disability stigma acts as a barrier to participation.

Methods: An inductive methodological approach guided the research design. Mixed methods were used including a narrative review of disabilities studies literature, 16 semi-structured interviews with persons with disabilities, and a quantitative survey of 970 persons with disabilities across three communities in Ethiopia.

Results: Informed by theories of epistemic justice, this study identified specific indicators of meaningful participation and examined how these relate to experiences of disability stigma. The study found that the participation of adults with disabilities in society is restricted across different areas of life. Misconceptions about the causes of disability and social perceptions regarding the capacities of persons with disabilities are found to exacerbate stigma and act as a barrier to participation.

Conclusion: Targeted efforts to challenge internalised norms and harmful beliefs within CBID approaches are required to address disadvantages arising from embedded disability stigma.

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Journal Article
Breffka E
Jagoe C
Murphy SP
Tsegaw BB