Background: Understandings of disability are rooted in contexts. Despite the world’s significant contextual diversity, postcolonial power dynamics allow influential actors from the global North to imagine that most people across the global South understand disability in one generalised way. When it informs programmes and services for persons with disabilities in the global South, this imagining of a single generalised view could reduce effectiveness while further marginalising the people for whom the programmes and services were designed.
Objectives: In the interest of better understanding a contextually grounded meaning of disability, we explored the expressed concerns of two organisations of persons with disabilities and their members in Western Zambia.
Method: In this qualitative constructionist study, data collection focused upon life with a disability and servicesavailable to persons with disabilities. Data were collected through 39 individual interviews and eight focus group discussions with 81 members of organisations of persons with disabilities. Data were analysed thematically.
Results: The participants’ main expressed concern was poverty. This concern was articulated in terms of a life of suffering and a need for material resources. Participants linked poverty to disability in two ways. Some participants identified how impairments limited resource acquisition, resulting in suffering. Others considered poverty to be an integral part of the experience of disability.
Conclusion: This study contributes to literature on disability theory by providing a contextually grounded account of a particular understanding of disability and poverty. The study also contributes to disability practice and policymaking through the demonstration of poverty as the main concern of persons with disabilities in this context.