Background: In spite of legislations and policies to ensure an inclusive society in South Africa for the accommodation of people with disabilities, there are reports that they still struggle to move freely within society.
Objectives: As part of a larger qualitative exploratory study on the preparation of undergraduate civil engineering students in a local university to contribute to the development of an inclusive society, this article seeks to understand the impact of the lived experiences of people with disabilities in their interaction with the built environment.
Method: Four persons with disabilities, considered to be knowledgeable about South African legislations relating to disability, were purposely selected to each share one specific experience whilst interacting with the built environment. The transcribed texts of the interviews were analysed by using the phenomenological–hermeneutic method.
Results: The participants exhibited strong desires to participate in society. However, the sense of loss of control and independence as they encountered challenges in the built environment changed the euphoria to disempowerment, rejection, anger and despondency. In spite of their experiences, participants expressed a commitment towards overcoming the challenges encountered in the broader interest of people with disabilities.
Conclusion: A deeper understanding of the impact of the experiences of people with disabilities when they participate within the built environment in South Africa revealed a broad spectrum of negative emotions, which may impact the quality of life and well-being of the participants.
African Journal of Disability, Vol 9, 2020