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Participation for adults with disabilities (TemB)

Background and aims

Following ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN RPD) in April 2014, approaches to inclusion and participation in society are a major theme in current academic discourse in Switzerland. Article 3 (General principles) calls, among other things, for “full and effective participation and inclusion in society”.  

Now that the concepts “participation” and “inclusion” have set the course in terms of objective, the implementation of UN RPD is reflected above all in the daily lives of people with disabilities of various kinds. The fundamental question is about what society and individuals can do to enable people with disabilities to participate in society on all levels. This participation should not be confined to specific areas of life, but should be experienced day by day. Apart from the evaluation of secondary data, for example by Zwicky (2003), there have been few studies in Switzerland devoted to opportunities for participation, facilitating factors and barriers to successful participation from the perspective of those concerned. The aim of this study is to ascertain the perspective of people with disabilities in relation to opportunities and constraints around participation in the fields of employment, housing, education, family & partnership and recreation, leisure & cultural life.


The following questions are examined: How do people with a disability experience their participation or exclusion in relation to employment, housing, education, family & partnership and recreation, leisure & cultural life? What opportunities for participation exist in which field? What barriers arise and how do people with disabilities deal with those barriers? What resources can people with disabilities tap into for themselves and where can a need for support be identified?


Theme-centred guided interviews will be conducted with those concerned in order to acquire data. Based on a manual setting out questions and prompts, the interviews address in particular biographical data in relation to specific problems. The aim of these guided interviews, according to Seifert et al. (2008), is to understand the individual subject within its own living environment and to reconstruct their view of efficient action with approximate accuracy in order to establish a basis for changes in the interest of a defined group (cf. ibid. p. 111). About 25 interviews are to be conducted and evaluated using the methods of grounded theory. This captures and analyses the concepts applied by agents and seeks to describe and explain social phenomena. The methods of grounded theory essentially initiate new theoretical developments, which are highly significant in relation to the subject of research.


In many areas, in separate settings as well as in more inclusive settings, successful inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities is not sufficiently guaranteed. For example, a central point is the precarious financial situation of the persons surveyed. Many of the persons surveyed cannot attend leisure events or participate in friendly get-togethers (held frequently at restaurants), because these things are hardly affordable for them. This means that they have to withdraw from important informal social events. Needed support resources are beyond the reach of some of the persons surveyed. They are stuck in an ‘in between’—between separate and inclusive settings. Especially for persons in this ‘in between’, there should be more mutual connections between the settings. The burden of and responsibility for adjustment should be carried by the systems and all of society and not only by individual persons with disabilities. In view of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Switzerland has a need to catch up.


Seifert, M. (2008). Lebensqualität und Wohnen bei schwerer geistiger Behinderung: Theorie und Praxis. Reutlingen: Diakonie-Verlag.

Zwicky, H. (2003). Zur sozialen Lage von Menschen mit Behinderungen in der Schweiz. In: Schweizerischen Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 29(1), 159ff.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilites



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Forschung und Entwicklung
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