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Being a girl & disabled in West Africa : the educational situation in question Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso

Humanity & Inclusion
October 2020

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Questions de recherche

1 / Dans quelle mesure le handicap — en interrelation avec le genre — influence-t-il les parcours de scolarisation des filles handicapées?

2 / Quelles spécificités liées aux types et au degré de handicap (physique, visuel, auditif, intellectuel) peuvent être observées?

3 / Quelles sont les spécificités liées à l’âge des filles handicapées?

4 / A quels enjeux, notamment en matière de protection de l’enfance, les jeunes filles handicapées sont-elle exposées ?

5 / Quelles spécificités contextuelles émergent dans les trois pays, objet de l’étude et dans les différents terrains d’étude?

6 / Quel rôle joue la religion et les croyances populaires dans l’accentuation des discriminations à l’égard des filles handicapées?

7 / Quels éléments facilitateurs (familiaux/communautaires/institutionnels/politiques/etc.) pour l’éducation des filles handicapées pourraient être identifiés dans les différentes zones d’étude?

Towards more inclusive practices: A Disability, Gender and Age Intersectional Resource

BRIGDEN, Stephanie
AHLUWALIA, Kanwal
2020

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This Disability, Gender and Age Resource aims to support staff to better understand intersectionality. An intersectional approach reminds us of the need to look deeper at the way multiple individual characteristics and societal factors intersect to compound discrimination in any given context. This resouce is split into w main sections:

 

In Section A, we introduce the concept of intersectionality, its use as a lens to understand vulnerability and the relevance of ‘context’. Section A also introduces a few critical concepts: the fact that disability, gender and age are all social constructs, the centrality of power and the need to transform unequal power relations.

 

In Section B, we provide some guidance on inclusion and bias; the need to consider the wider environment; how to work with social norms; how to understand power differently; and empowerment and participation processes.

Psychosocial Functioning in Children with Dyslexia: Perspectives from Parents, Counsellors and Teachers

BAJAJ, Deepali
BHATIA, Sangeeta
2020

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Purpose: The study aimed to understand the issues and challenges encountered by various stakeholders (teachers, parents and counsellors) working with children with dyslexia in the inclusive school context.

 

Method: Using purposive and snowball sampling, 20 teachers, 20 counsellors and 20 parents (mothers) of children with specific learning disability (dyslexia) were selected from 8 inclusive schools in Delhi. A qualitative approach was adopted, with a semi-structured interview schedule to elicit responses. Qualitative thematic analysis was used as a framework for data analysis.

 

Results: Parents experienced negative feelings due to lack of awareness and acceptance of dyslexia. Counsellers felt parental ignorance led to delay in assessment and remediation. Parents and counsellors perceived lack of support from schools and lack of empathy among teachers. Teachers confessed they lacked training to deal with dyslexic learners, were unaware of policies and concessions for them, and were currently overburdened with their workload.

 

Conclusion: There is a need to hold psycho-educational workshops for parents in order to increase their awareness, and conduct training workshops (pre-service and in-service) for teachers to increase awareness and build empathy. Schools should provide in-house assistive services such as assessment and remediation, and redefine the goals of education to focus on the holistic skills of children.

Looking under the veil: Challenges faced by people with disabilities in cross-border entrepreneurship

MATSAURE, Keresencia
CHINDIMBA, Agness
ZIMANO, Felistas R
RUFFIN, Fayth
September 2020

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Background: Cross-border entrepreneurship is one source of livelihood that is transforming people’s lives, especially those with limited resources and educational qualifications and those in need of supplementary earnings to complement meagre formal earnings. However, despite strides made to make this avenue worthwhile, this Zimbabwean study shows that hidden hindrances still persist from procedural and structural barriers from road entry point management systems. To people with disabilities (PWDs), the impact of these hidden barriers is severe to the extent of obstructing their optimum progression into cross-border entrepreneurship.

 

Objectives: This article sought to interrogate some veiled challenges in border management systems affecting PWDs’ quest to venture into cross-border entrepreneurship. This angle has, to this end, been timidly addressed as most organisations and legislation have concentrated on making things work for the majority of the populace.

 

Method: Qualitative phenomenological method in which researchers’ lived experiences, review of literature, ideas and opinions is complemented by secondary survey data from a road entry point management system study in the Zimbabwean setting.

 

Results: Cross-border entrepreneurship has potential to transform people’s lives: 1) road and border management systems’ procedural and structural complications present hidden challenges impeding PWDs’ entry and optimum participation in cross border entrepreneurship, 2) people with disabilities are not automatically dependents; in fact, most have dependents looking up to the, 30 social construction of disability persists and must be curbed and 4) there is a need to institute a ‘stakeholders triad approach’.

 

Conclusion: The existing road entry points’ management systems are not informed by considerations from PWDs, hence the existence of hidden challenges. Cross-border entrepreneurship can open significant livelihood avenues to PWDs. A stakeholders ‘triad-approach’, proposed herein, can solve some of the policy discrepancies as it recommends utilising inputs from PWDs, research and policy-makers.

 

African Journal of Disability, Vol 9, 2020 

Covid-19 Double Jeopardy for Persons with Disability

ADD International
August 2020

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SUMMARY

This report presents the findings from telephone interviews with 91 representatives from 15 Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) partners in Bangladesh, to ask about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on persons with disabilities in Bangladesh.

The report finds that, in the Covid-19 pandemic, some persons with disabilities experience double jeopardy—not only are persons with disabilities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, but they are also disproportionately excluded from protection and survival support.

Persons with disabilities report being disproportionately excluded from Covid-19 support. 63% of respondents report not receiving the same protection and survival support as others. Two-thirds of those who described their personal experiences reported supply shortage or diversion of essential food and medical supplies as reasons for why they had been excluded.

Relief that has been provided has not met need. Many respondents (84%) report that survival support does not meet their basic needs. Support received has mostly been food instead of cash. Some (17%) report difficulty in following Covid-19 advice, mostly because they cannot afford protection materials.

Persons with multiple disabilities are being left further behind. Respondents with multiple functional difficulties experience more exclusion than respondents with one functional difficulty. This finding of disproportionate exclusion is statistically significant and consistent with qualitative responses, which show that most of those that did report challenges in following received advice were persons with multiple functional difficulties. This strongly suggests that persons with multiple functional difficulties experience more barriers. Persons with multiple functional difficulties who were excluded tended to report difficulties in communicating, remembering, self-care and walking.

The economic impact of the pandemic is acute for persons with disabilities. On average, respondents report losing 65% of their income since the Covid-19 crisis began, which in absolute terms, after adjusting for purchase power parity, is the equivalent of moving from £167 to £58 in monthly earnings.

Some respondents report that they are skipping meals and going hungry. Anecdotal reports reveal that families are reverting to one main meal every two days, or two main meals every three days. Many are borrowing and relying on family support to meet their daily needs to survive, and some of those who already depended on family support have had that support reduced or withdrawn. On balance, future plans reflect a sense of precarity due to uncertainty, ranging from feelings of hope with specific plans to powerlessness with no plans.

Government can do more. Many respondents said government should prioritise persons with disabilities and provide more relief. Many voiced concerns about how relief was being distributed or stolen, and that it is not reaching those most in need. The majority of respondents said that NGOs and wealthy people should play a role in support efforts.

Barriers experienced by people with disabilities participating in income-generating activities. A case of a sheltered workshop in Bloemfontein, South Africa

TINTA, Nokuthula
STEYN, Hester
VERMAAS, Jana
2020

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Background: People with disabilities often participate in income-generating activities (IGAs) in sheltered workshop in South Africa. However, they face many barriers that limit their ability to participate effectively in economic activities hosted by the workshops.

 

Objectives: To illustrate the barriers that limit the participation of people with disabilities in IGAs in a sheltered workshop.

 

Method: A qualitative exploratory single case study was conducted in a sheltered workshop. Eighteen participants, age 22 to 52 years with various disabilities were purposively sampled. Observations and semi-structured interview guides were used to generate data. Verbatim transcription was used after which content analysis was applied to identify ideas and concepts relating to barriers experienced by people with disabilities participating in IGAs.

 

Results: Some of the barriers participants experienced included institutional barriers (ability to use working tools, inability to concentrate for long periods, lack of funds, language barriers, lack of motivation, activities that are not stimulating and lack of artistry skills) and attitudinal barriers (exclusion from decision making) These barriers had an adverse influence on their performance in IGAs.

 

Conclusion: The study found eight different barriers that existed in a sheltered workshop which limited the participation of the people with disabilities that attended the workshop. This information can be used to develop strategies to address each barrier and promote increased participation of the individual thereby improving their quality of life.

 

 

African Journal of Disability, Vol 9, 2020 

The life stories and experiences of the children admitted to the Institute for Imbecile Children from 1895 to 1913

Du PLESSIS, Rory
August 2020

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Background: South African scholarship on intellectual disability has produced a sizeable body of research, yet there are numerous areas where there is a paucity of research. One area in which there is a conspicuous paucity of research is historical studies of people with intellectual disability (PWID). The existing works devoted to the history of PWID in South Africa are primarily focused on the legal provisions and institutions for the protection and care of PWID. Missing from these works are the life stories and experiences of PWID.

 

Objectives: The article offers a study devoted to the life stories and experiences of the children with intellectual disability (CWID) who were admitted to the Institute for Imbecile Children from 1895 to 1913. The institute opened in April 1895 in Makhanda (formerly known as Grahamstown), South Africa. The institute was the first of its kind in the Cape Colony for CWID.

 

Method: The study presents a qualitative investigation of the life stories and experiences of the children that were recorded in the institute’s casebook. The entire set of 101 cases contained in the casebook was analysed by adopting a Gadamerian approach to hermeneutics.

 

Results: The examination of the institute’s casebook identified several broad themes relating to the children’s admittance, daily life at the institute and their routes out of the institute. The study also extols the individuality of each child’s life story to provide an awareness and richer appreciation of the humanness and personhood of the children.

 

Conclusion: The article contributes a positive narrative to the identity and the history of South African children with intellectual disability living in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

 

African Journal of Disability, Vol 9, 2020 

Representation and methods of normalisation: Narratives of disability within a South African tertiary institution

DEVAR, Teagan
BOBAT, Shaida
REUBEN, Shanya
July 2020

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Background: The manner in which disability is understood influences how individuals within a society, its institutions, policies and structures are able to accommodate and support people with disabilities (PWD) (Kaplan 2000). Understanding how students with disabilities (SWD) within a higher education context perceive and experience disability as well as how key players, namely, lecturers and disability unit (DU) staff, who influence that experience, is important in further shaping policy and providing a truly inclusive environment for all within HEIs.

 

Objectives: The study aimed to examine the narratives of disability among SWD, lecturers and the DU within a tertiary institution, with a view to better understand their experiences and required initiatives to address the challenges of disability within a higher tertiary institution.

 

Method: The study drew on three theoretical frameworks: social constructionism, feminist disability theory and the Foucauldian perspective. Data for the study were collected through in-depth semi-structured interviews with 12 SWD, seven members of staff from the institution’s DU and five lecturers from within the School of Applied Human Sciences. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.

 

Results: The findings suggested that in spite of both facilitating and positive representations of disability, the dominant representation of disability was perceived as challenging and as a result, disempowering. Students with disabilities were found to adapt, and consequently modify their behaviour by disassociating from their disability in order to fit in.

 

Conclusion: The study highlights the need for creating spaces and engagement within an HEI context that both challenge negative discourses of disability, and at the same time, promote positive representations of disability.

 

 

African Journal of Disability, Vol 9, 2020

Preparedness of civil society in Botswana to advance disability inclusion in programmes addressing gender-based and other forms of violence against women and girls with disabilities

HANASS-HANCOCK, Jill
MTHETHWA, Nomfundo
MOLEFHE, Malebogo
KEAKABETSE, Tshiamo
2020

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Background: In low-income and middle-income countries women and girls with disabilities are more likely to experience violence than those without disabilities. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) can help to address this. However, in countries like Botswana we know little about the preparedness of NGOs and DPOs to increase inclusion in and access to programmes addressing violence.

 

Objectives: To explore the capacity and preparedness of NGOs and DPOs to ensure that women and girls with disabilities can participate in and access programmes addressing violence.

 

Methods: A qualitative study was undertaken using interviews with 17 NGOs and DPOs in Botswana to understand the organisations’ level of and ability to deliver programmes addressing violence against women and girls.

 

Results: Both NGOs and DPOs lack elements of universal design and reasonable accommodation, and thus are inaccessible to some people with disabilities. Some programmes address violence against women but lack skills and resources to accommodate people with disabilities. In contrast, DPOs work with people with disabilities, but lack focus on violence against women with disabilities. Participants identified opportunities to fill these gaps, including adaptation of policies and structural changes, training, approaches to mainstream disability across programmes, development of disability-specific interventions and improved networking.

 

Conclusions: Botswana’s NGOs and DPOs are well positioned to address violence against women and girls with disabilities, but need to increase their accessibility, staff knowledge and skills and disability inclusion. Training, resource allocation and participation of women with disabilities in NGOs and DPOs is needed to drive this change.

 

 

African Journal of Disability, Vol 9, 2020

Development of self-help groups for caregivers of children with disabilities in Kilifi, Kenya: Process evaluation

GONA, Joseph K.
NEWTON, Charles
HARTLEY, Sally
BUNNING, Karen
July 2020

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Background: Caring for a child with disabilities in a resource-poor setting brings many challenges to the caregiver. We examined the development of self-help groups for caregivers in a rural part of Kenya.

 

Objectives: To conduct a process evaluation on the development of self-help groups during a 10-month set-up period, focusing on implementation and mechanisms associated with their functional status.

 

Methods: Using a realist evaluation design, we set up 20 self-help groups for 254 caregivers. An evaluation was conducted to investigate implementation and mechanisms of impact. Implementation focused on caregiver registration, community group support and monitoring visit compliance. Data were collected from group registers, records of meetings and field notes. Mechanisms of impact employed a framework of strengths–weaknesses–opportunities–threats to review the groups at the end of the 10-month set-up period.

 

Results: Recruitment resulted in registration of 254 participants to 18 groups – two groups disbanded early. Post-evaluation included 11 active and 7 inactive groups. Compliance with the monitoring visits was consistent across the active groups. All groups engaged in ‘merry-go-round’ activities. The active groups were characterised by strong leadership and at least one successful income generation project; the inactive had inconsistent leadership and had dishonest behaviour both within the group and/or externally in the community. Mediators associated with functional status included the following: available literacy and numeracy skills, regular meetings with consistent attendance by the members, viable income generating projects, geographical proximity of membership and strong leadership for managing threats.

 

Conclusion: Self-help groups have the potential to progress in resource-poor settings. However, critical to group progression are literacy and numeracy skills amongst the members, their geographical proximity, regular meetings of the group, viable income generating projects and strong leadership.

 

 

African Journal of Disability, Vol 9, 2020

Aid Connect Inclusion Works (NIGERIA) Qualitative Formative Research

BBC Media Action
April 2020

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BBC Media Action is implementing a Department for International Development (DfID) funded project aimed at increasing action and investment from private, public and civil society actors to enable economic inclusion for women and men with disabilities through employment, with focus on FCT, Lagos and Kano states. The formative research provides insights to help (re)shape the design and implementation of media capacity strengthening activities on the project.

 

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the UK government or members of the Inclusion Works consortium.

Transformative equality: Court accommodations for South African citizens with severe communication disabilities

WHITE, Robyn M
BORNMAN, Juan
JOHNSON, Ensa
TEWSON, Karen
NIEKERK, Joan van
April 2020

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Background: Persons with disabilities are generally at greater risk of experiencing violence than their peers without a disability. Within the sphere of disability, individuals with severe communication disabilities are particularly vulnerable and have an increased risk of being a victim of abuse or violence and typically turn to their country’s criminal justice system to seek justice. Unfortunately, victims with disabilities are often denied fair and equal treatment before the court. Transformative equality should be pursued when identifying accommodations in court for persons with communication disabilities, as the aim should be to enable such individuals to participate equally in court, without barriers and discrimination.

 

Objectives: This research aimed to identify court accommodations recommended by legal experts, which could assist individuals with severe communication disabilities in the South African court.

 

Method: A qualitative design was used to conduct a discussion with a panel of legal experts.

 

Results: Using Article 13 (Access to Justice) of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) as a human rights framework, four themes were identified: equality, accommodations, participation and training of professionals.

 

Conclusion: Foreign and national law clearly prohibits discrimination against persons with communication disabilities because of their disability and state that they should be given fair and equal access to the court system. For transformative equality to be achieved, certain rules and laws need to be changed to include specific accommodations for persons with communication disabilities so that they may be enabled to participate effectively in court in the criminal justice system.

 

 

 

African Journal of Disability, Vol 9, 2020

Barriers Faced by Young Adults with Disabilities in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia Report of a Community-Based Emancipatory Disability Research (CB-EDR)

Sunil Deepak
February 2020

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An Emancipatory Disability Research in Mongolia was carried out as part of a project aimed at promoting independent living among young adults with disabilities living in the national capital Ulaanbaatar (UB). It was focused on young adults with disabilities living in the 9 districts of UB and was seen as a part of the process which provides information and skills to persons for independent living. It was based on the social model of disability - it looked at the different ways in which the society creates disabling barriers which block or make difficult the participation of persons with disabilities in the different domains of life. The idea of conducting the emancipatory research came from an interaction between some Mongolian DPOs and Tegsh Niigem, a Mongolian NGO active in the areas of rehabilitation, who then asked AIFO-Italy for technical support to conduct it. EDR in Mongolia was implemented through a new approach called a “Community-Based Emancipatory Disability Research” (CB-EDR). A group of young persons with different disabilities were identified as volunteer-researchers by their DPOs, trained and then supported to carry out research in 12 broad areas which they had identified, over a period of 18 months. The researchers, individually or in small groups, carried out research on one theme at a time by collecting information about it from the field. They met periodically to share and discuss the findings of their research and to build a common understanding about the key issues related to the selected theme, and what could they do to overcome the barriers they had identified.

The promise of equal education not kept: Specific learning disabilities – The invisible disability

GOW, Melanie A
MOSTERT, Yvonne
DREYER, Lorna
February 2020

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Background: This research is part of a larger project on the exploration of inequalities in South African higher education. This current study focussed on the implementation of policies to eradicate inequalities in an inclusive education system.

 

Objectives: This article aimed to establish the implementation of policy by researching the lived experiences of students with specific learning disabilities (SLDs) studying in the university.

 

Method: A qualitative, systematic review was employed as the research methodology. Original peer-reviewed qualitative studies published between 1994 and 2017 were systematically reviewed. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) was used to ensure rigorous reviews. The Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) was used to guide the process of critical appraisal of the selected articles which resulted in a total of 10 articles being selected for reviewing. The target population of this research comprised undergraduate students diagnosed with SLD. Semi-structured interviews were the main data collection tools used in the studies that were reviewed. Data from the selected articles were extracted and synthesised.

 

Results: The dominant themes that emerged from the review were: (1) fear of stigmatisation; (2) gaps in policy implementation; (3) experiences vary across departments; and (4) self-determination and family support as success factors.

 

Conclusion: An important aspect in the transformation of higher education institution is to ensure the closing of the disjuncture between policy and implementation in support of students with SLD.

 

 

African Journal of Disability, Vol 9, 2020 

Learning support strategies for learners with neurodevelopmental disorders: Perspectives of recently qualified teachers

YORO, Amarachi J
FOURIE, Jean V
VAN DER MERWE, Martyn
February 2020

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Background: Inclusive education envisages the improvement of the quality of education for all learners. This further implies that schools must adjust all systems of teaching and learning to accommodate all learners regardless of their diverse needs. The reduction of educational inequalities through inclusive practices is aimed at supporting the accomplishment of academic outcomes for all. Learners presenting with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) place specific requirements on teachers, particularly when they find themselves in mainstream classrooms.

 

Objectives: This study focused on the learning support strategies used by recently qualified teachers in accommodating learners with NDDs in mainstream classrooms in the Gauteng province of South Africa.

 

Method: A qualitative approach was used to explore the support strategies used by recently qualified teachers in mainstream classrooms when dealing with learners with NDDs. Purposive sampling was used to select six recently qualified teachers from different mainstream classroom. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews, observations and critical incident reports.

 

Results: The findings revealed that teachers employ a variety of support strategies such as cooperative learning, peer learning, ability grouping, extensive visual aids and curriculum differentiation in an attempt to support learners. The support provided by the teachers was evident in their performance as learners with NDD were able to learn and understand the lessons irrespective for their barrier to learning.

 

Conclusion: Contrary to literature findings that teachers do not support learners with diverse needs because of lack of skills, training and knowledge, this study revealed that recently qualified teachers employ a variety of support strategies to support learners with NDDs. However, it appeared that these support strategies were rather general teaching and learning strategies. More support strategies should be applied to help learners with NDD in the mainstream classroom.

 

 

African Journal of Disability, Vol 9, 2020 

Including parents in inclusive practice: Supporting students with disabilities in higher education

DUMA, Princess T.
SHAWA, Lester B.
October 2019

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Background: While a number of research studies have endeavoured to understand students with disabilities’ experience in higher education and have recommended ways to effectively support student success, the role of parental support has been neglected. Many studies have been hampered by a limited understanding of students with disabilities and have, in particular, underestimated students’ ‘access to economic, social and cultural forms of capital’ that caring parents provide.

 

Objectives: This article seeks to explore students with disabilities’ experiences of parental support in the South African higher education context. The research question guiding this article is: What forms of economic, social and cultural capital do parents and extended families provide to students with disabilities to enable them to succeed in higher education?

 

Method: In-depth semi-structured individual and focus group interviews were conducted with 17 students with disabilities at two universities of technology. The interview transcripts were thematically analysed with a view to understanding Pierre Bourdieu’s forms of capital that parents provided.

 

Results: The study found that while parents are not always able to provide material support, they offered rich and varied forms of social and cultural capital that enabled students with disabilities’ academic success.

 

Conclusion: Given that parental support plays an important role in the success of students with disabilities, and this role changes as these students become more independent, this study recommends the need for universities to also pay more attention to involving parents in the education of the former. It is hoped that putting in place appropriate forms of parental involvement can create a conducive environment for universities to provide inclusive education holistically.

 

 

African Journal of Disability, Vol 8, 2019

Framing heuristics in inclusive education: The case of Uganda’s preservice teacher education programme

NANTONGO, Proscovia S.
October 2019

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Background: Recent education-related research has raised concerns about the persistent exclusion of vulnerable learners in Uganda. The Revised Primary Teacher Education Curriculum of 2013 marked an ambitious yet inconclusive attempt to advance the implementation of inclusive education but has encountered deeply entrenched sociocultural exclusionary practices among education experts.

 

Objectives: This study aimed to explicate education practitioners’ interpretations of Uganda’s flagship inclusive education programme in preservice primary teacher education.

 

Method: Drawing on the conceptual vocabulary of frame analysis and the qualitative analysis of individual and group interviews and classroom observations, the interpretations of inclusive education implementation in preservice primary teacher education in Uganda were examined. The participants included policy design experts, curriculum design experts and classroom practitioners.

 

Results: Three main findings emerged. Firstly, interpretations of inclusive education displayed a narrow framing heuristic of inclusive education as a perfunctory, daily practice rather than a pathway for reflective, inclusive pedagogical engagement. Secondly, the heuristic encouraged the treatment of inclusive pedagogy as a ‘label’ under a specific rubric referring to sensory impairments or disabilities – a historical device for sociocultural exclusion. Thirdly, inclusive education was a praxis but was misframed from its original intentions, causing tension and resentment among practitioners. These findings contribute to the debates on the sustainability of inclusive education beyond preservice teacher education.

 

Conclusion: Uganda’s flagship inclusive education programme in preservice primary teacher education was fraught with tensions, ambiguities and an overt, urgent need for change.

 

 

African Journal of Disability, Vol 8, 2019

‘Enabling Access’: A Pilot Study on Access and Use of Assistive Products in the Northern Province, Sri Lanka

HETTIARACHCHI, Shyamani
SUBRAMANIAM, V
RAJAH, Emil
GOWRITHARAN, Paramaguru
NIZAR, Shamra
SALEEM, Shakeela
2019

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Purpose: The need for suitable assistive technology is growing all over the world, not only for people with disabilities but also for the ageing population with functional decline and non-communicable diseases. Access to assistive technology promotes access to education, employment and active societal participation. The aim of this study was to assess the self-reported need by persons with disabilities and by people who were 65 years and older without disabilities in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, for assistive products; and to identify barriers to accessing these assistive products.

 

Method: This mixed-methods pilot study included 76 participants who were either persons with disabilities or their caregiver or persons 65 years and older, from the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, affected by the now-ended 30-year civil war.  To ascertain trends in the local need for assistive products, a translated version of the World Health Organisation’s Priority Assistive Products List of 50 items was used. In addition, semi-structured interviews with key participants were conducted, to gain some insights into the barriers to accessing assistive products. 

 

Results: The most widely used assistive products among persons with disabilities were connected to war-related injuries. In contrast, those used by the older age group of persons without disabilities were connected to non-communicable diseases and age-related frailty. The assistive products requested by both groups were aids to promote independence in daily activities and to support access to education and employment. The emergent themes included affordability, employment, independence in activities of daily living, stigma and psychological impact, and a lack of awareness and guidance in the use of assistive devices.

 

Conclusion: The findings highlight the need for policies and practices to be informed by local socio-cultural, historical and geographical realities.

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