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Publication of the first PARTICIPA Report

Publication of the first PARTICIPA Report

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Publication of the first PARTICIPA Report

After more than 2 years collecting data from a cohort of more than 2,000 people with disabilities living in Spain and Andorra, the PARTICIPA project of the Institut Guttmann reveals in its first report a large number of barriers that significantly reduce the quality and quantity of participation in society of people with disabilities, and reveals factors traditionally little known, such as the perception of loneliness and social isolation and the limited ability to make decisions about free time, among others. Thus, 15.8% of people with disabilities feel "isolated", 17.3% perceive that people are "around them, but not with them" and less than half (46.9%) can always or almost always choose how to spend their free time. And all these factors, the report indicates, are due to the existence of barriers in the environment. 

The research team has detected barriers to access to homes, not only their own: 62.6% of the participants have difficulties in accessing the homes of relatives or friends. One of the consequences is, for instance, that 13.6% of people with disabilities state that they never or rarely find company when they want it. 

"These results derive from a reality, which is that disability is constructed socio-spatially, so that both the physical and interpersonal environment can place out of place those individuals who do not adapt to the ideal human standard, which is generally a male, white, with a high socio-economic level and without disability," says Blanca Cegarra, sociologist and researcher on the project. This, Cegarra adds, is a consequence of physical and social barriers. The social ones are much less known than the physical ones, but they are just as decisive for participation," she explains. It is not just a question of participating more, but of participating on equal terms with the rest, and it is important to bear in mind that physical access to a space does not guarantee equal participation". 

Economic disadvantage due to disability 

The report indicates that the average monthly income per person is 1,050 euros, comparable to the average income of 1,022 euros for Spaniards, according to data from 2021. But we must take into account the economic disadvantage caused by disability," explains Joan Saurí, psychologist and Principal Investigator of PARTICIPA, "as there are additional expenses for rehabilitation or other therapies, adaptations in the home or travel expenses due to the lack of accessibility of public transport. Having a disability reduces purchasing power". In this regard, a 2019 study by Barcelona City Council put the extra cost of living in the city for people with disabilities at 27,398 euros per year. 

This reduction in purchasing power, say the researchers, is only part of the "cascade of barriers" faced by people with disabilities. PARTICIPA reveals that 71.7% report difficulties in accessing public space, and 64% face barriers in short-distance transport. This lack of adequate transport affects other areas. For instance, the study shows that it is a significant barrier to getting or keeping a job: one in three people consider that their means of transport is not sufficient to keep a job and be a responsible worker. 

Also in the labour field, 74% consider that pain resulting from disability hinders the ability to work. "In view of this situation, an accessible and inclusive labour market is needed that allows people with disabilities the opportunity to have a job far removed from the demands of training and productivity," Cegarra denounces. Especially because, she adds, "the person can find themselves in a vicious circle that feeds back on itself: for example, if you have problems getting around and therefore do not work, you may generate less income and not have the necessary support, which means that you do less cultural and leisure activities and, therefore, enjoy fewer social relations".