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Self-reported barriers to activities of daily living of persons with disabilities living in IDP sites in northwest Syria

Self-reported barriers to activities of daily living of persons with disabilities living in IDP sites in northwest Syria

Lived experiences of persons with sensory, physical, and cognitive difficulties residing in unfinished buildings, collective centres, makeshift tents and formal camps

Brief report and recommendations


Inclusion Technical Working Group

Protection Cluster Syria (Turkey hub)

November 2020


Executive summary


The impact of physical, attitudinal, and institutional barriers on access to essential services and participation in essential activities for persons with disabilities residing in IDP sites are often extreme in northwest Syria.


Barriers for persons with disabilities negatively impact mental and physical health and wellbeing, attainment of rights on an equal basis with others, access to services, and individual and household income sufficiency. For children, barriers significantly limit their ability to learn and develop along with their peers, with lifelong implications, rarely reversible. These barriers to accessing services and participation increase risks of adoption of negative and harmful coping strategies, elevate risks of exploitation and abuse, and increase poverty. Common compounding factors to existing barriers include income insufficiency, the impacts of displacement on access to assistive devices, and a general environmental incompatibility with needs of persons with disabilities.


Barriers and their consequences for individuals due to difficulties in functioning are often misunderstood. This report aims to describe lived experiences of persons with disabilities in northwest Syria, supporting understanding. It also highlights needs and key barriers to engagement in personal, domestic and community-based activities of daily living, which includes access to and engagement with humanitarian organisations. The analysis of these difficulties forms the basis of key pragmatic recommendations for humanitarian actors.

Findings demonstrate that persons with disabilities experience reduced independence in their daily activities due to:

physical barriers such as - for example - inaccessible WASH facilities,

attitudinal barriers, such as bullying and threats of abuse and exploitation in their local communities as well as discrimination from humanitarian staff, and
institutional barriers, such as the lack of inclusion mechanisms in humanitarian programming which would enable persons with disabilities to participate on an equal basis with others, such as provision of reasonable accommodation (individualised supports).


Themes extracted from the data demonstrate that this group of respondents felt disempowered, made to feel lesser than others and therefore somewhat invisible in their communities. Findings also suggest that ‘disempowered’ and ‘lesser than others’ is, for the most part, also how community members perceive persons with disabilities. The power and impact of attitudes in the community, which includes those of humanitarian staff, cannot be overlooked, as almost all barriers are to a degree a result of intentional or unintentional discrimination.

The methodology to collect information in this study was qualitative and therefore, the results are not representative of the wider population with disabilities. However, key themes were prominent in the data and therefore quantified, only for the ease of the reader. Key findings are as below:

56 percent of respondents reported that due to the lack of available ‘European style’ toilets, they could not use toileting facilities at all

53 percent of respondents reported needing additional hygiene supplies
70 percent of respondents reported the need for an assistive device to improve their functioning in at least one of their daily activities
34 percent of respondents reported that they required personal assistance to mitigate barriers and access their local environment, while in the in the absence of another person to assist them they are commonly unable to leave their residence at all
41 percent of respondents reported incidents where they had experienced intentional or unintentional exploitation (usually due to a lack of consent procedures to film or to be photographed) and/or discrimination due to their disability when engaged with humanitarian organisations
45 percent of respondents reported that they were unaware of any complaints and feedback mechanisms available to humanitarian service users.

As a result of these findings and based on the most urgent needs reported by respondents of the study, the Inclusion Technical Working Group of the Syria Protection Cluster (Turkey hub), in line with the IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action 2019, has developed key recommendations and actions in the form of a practical checklist which all humanitarian partners, including donors, should consider immediately. Additional checklists, specific to the sectors of Protection, WASH, S/NFI, CCCM (including site planning), Health, Food Security and Nutrition are also included.

These checklists build on, contextualize and operationalize the four ‘must do actions’ detailed in the IASC guidelines :

Promote meaningful participation - engage persons with disabilities in all phases of the project cycle in a meaningful way, ensuring that input and feedback from persons with disabilities is acted upon.

Remove barriers - identify attitudinal, physical and institutional barriers to accessing assistance and services which exist in the community, the general context, and within your organisation and take measurable actions to remove these.

Empower persons with disabilities - provide persons with disabilities the opportunity to engage in the project in various capacities e.g. monitoring committees, as staff, local liaisons etc; and enable them an opportunity to develop their skills.

Disaggregate data for monitoring inclusion - ensure that all data collected in assessments and implementation monitoring is disaggregated at a minimum by gender, age, and disability to better understand the extent to which persons with disabilities are reached and engaged in projects, and to provide information on gaps and needs to facilitate project adjustment.

Operacione(s)/Espacio(s) web: 
Protection - Turkey Cross Border
Fecha de publicación original: 
30 Nov 2020
Tipo de documento: 
Centro de coordinación: 
Syria: Crisis 2011-2022