Institutional barriers

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Discriminatory laws, policies, guidelines, or procedures are examples of policy barriers, or sometimes called institutional barriers are that systematically discriminate or disadvantage certain groups of people. They are often the result of a lack of awareness of people involved in writing legislation and policies or the lack of awareness and experience of those who lead and facilitate procedures.


  • A legislation that do not recognize persons with mental health conditions or intellectual disabilities with legal capacity, which risks to discriminate during an emergency by not taking their consent
  • A humanitarian organisation which policy states that they will employ candidates who are psychologically, intellectually and physically fit to work. 
  • Cash transfer policies that segregate persons with disabilities, or have a registration procedure that is too complex to understand for persons with mental health conditions or intellectual disabilities.

To overcome institutional barriers:

  • Analyse policies and procedures together with persons with disabilities and other at-risk groups to identify barriers, during, for instance, focus group discussions.
  • Adjust your own organisation's policies and procedures to remove institutional barriers and create conditions which are conducive to the inclusion of women and men with disabilities and other diverse backgrounds.
  • Engage policy makers/decision makers to highlight institutional barriers in the laws, policies and procedures they can shape. Involve representative groups in your advocacy work. 
  • Provide specific support or reasonable accommodation to individuals in the community to ensure they can access services and participate equally despite institutional barriers.