Original Research

Disability prevalence-context matters: A descriptive community-based survey

Soraya Maart, Seyi Amosun, Jennifer Jelsma
African Journal of Disability | Vol 8 | a512 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v8i0.512 | © 2019 Soraya Maart, Seyi Amosun, Jennifer Jelsma | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 February 2018 | Published: 14 August 2019

About the author(s)

Soraya Maart, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Seyi Amosun, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Jennifer Jelsma, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa


Background: There is increasing interest in the collection of globally comparable disability data. Context may influence not only the rates but also the nature of disability, thus locally collected data may be of greater use in service delivery planning than national surveys.

Objectives: The objective of this article was to explore the extent to which two areas, both under-resourced but geographically and socially distinct, differed in terms of the prevalence and patterns of disability.

Method: A cross-sectional descriptive survey design was utilised, using stratified cluster sampling in two under-resourced communities in the Western Cape, South Africa. Nyanga is an informal urban settlement in Cape Town and Oudtshoorn is a semi-rural town. The Washington Group Short Set of questions was used to identify persons with disabilities (PWD), and a self-developed questionnaire obtained socio-demographic information.

Results: The overall prevalence of disability was 9.7% (confidence intervals [CIs] 9.7–9.8) and the proportion of PWD was significantly different between the two sites (Chi-Sq = 129.5, p < 0.001). In the urban area, the prevalence rate of any disability was 13.1% (CIs 12.0–14.3) with 0.3% (CIs 0.1–0.6) reporting inability to perform any function at all. In contrast, the semi-rural community had a lower overall prevalence rate of 6.8% (CIs 6.0% – 7.8%) but a higher rate of those unable to perform any function: 1% (CIs 0.07–1.4). Disability was associated with gender, age, unemployment and lower income status in both areas.

Conclusion: Deprived areas tend to show higher disability prevalence rates than the National Census estimates. However, the discrepancy in prevalence and patterns of disability between the two under-resourced areas indicates the need for locally specific data when planning health interventions.


disability; prevalence; context; service planning; census; survey


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