WCPT Africa Region Conference System, 9th WCPT Africa Region Congress

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Disability in a poorly resourced area of the Western Cape
Soraya Maart, Jennifer Margaret Jelsma

Last modified: 2012-02-18


Soraya Maart

Jennifer Jelsma

Division of Physiotherapy, University of Cape Town



A community based survey of disability was undertaken in one of the least resourced areas of Cape Town to investigate the impact and causes of disability within these areas. This paper will present preliminary results of the most common types of disability reported.


In order for authorities to equitably distribute resources, the burden of disability across the different types of impairment needs to be established. This study set out to document the prevalence of the different types of self-reported impairment.


Cluster sampling was used to identify 1000 households that were proportionally representative of those living in brick houses, in back yards and in informal settlements. The head of the household was interviewed and asked to identify whether there were any people with disabilities living within the household. Those identified as having disabilities or their proxies were then interviewed.


Validated questions were used to screen for disability and self-reported causes of disability were recorded..


Descriptive statistics were used to describe the frequency of disability and non-parametric test were used to identify any differences in presentation between males and females and at different ages.


From November 2011 to January 2012, 961 households were visited and information gained on 4043 individuals, of which 46.5% were males.  There were 18 missing responses. The mean age of the sample was 30.5 (SD20.8) (23 missing).

 Of the total of 4043 people on whom data was collected, 2.4% had problems with seeing, 1.5% with hearing, 4.4% with walking, 3.5% with remembering, 4.5% with self-care and 2.8% with communication.  There were 346 people identified with at least some difficulty in one area, a prevalence of 8.6%. The prevalence of having one severe problem in one domain was 4.1% .

Of those with some difficulty in one domain (347), 44% were male and the mean age was 34.7 (SD=28.0). The range was from birth through to 91 years of age.



Mobility and self-care were the domains in which most reported problems indicating a need for rehabilitation of mobility and function. The age of the sample was quite young and the need to provide services to people who are still in an economically active age bracket should be a priority.


Information gained can be used to inform the deployment of appropriate rehabilitation personnel to the areas under study.

Key words

Epidemiology, prevalence of disability.


Funding was received from the National Research Foundation and the Research Committee of the University of Cape Town, Western Cape Department of Health.


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