“When They See a Wheelchair, They’ve Not Even Seen Me”—Factors Shaping the Experience of Disability Stigma and Discrimination in Kenya
Giulia Barbareschi, Mark T. Carew, Elizabeth Aderonke Johnson, Norah Kopi, Catherine Holloway
Aug. 3, 2021
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.