Original Research

Policy implementation in wheelchair service delivery in a rural South African setting

Surona Visagie, Elsje Scheffler, Marguerite Schneider
African Journal of Disability | Vol 2, No 1 | a63 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v2i1.63 | © 2013 Surona Visagie, Elsje Scheffler, Marguerite Schneider | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 March 2013 | Published: 06 September 2013

About the author(s)

Surona Visagie, Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Elsje Scheffler, DARE Consult, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Marguerite Schneider, Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, South Africa


Background: Wheelchairs allow users to realise basic human rights and improved quality of life. South African and international documents guide rehabilitation service delivery and thus the provision of wheelchairs. Evidence indicates that rehabilitation policy implementation gaps exist in rural South Africa.

Objectives: The aim of this article was to explore the extent to which wheelchair service delivery in a rural, remote area of South Africa was aligned with the South African National Guidelines on Provision of Assistive Devices, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and The World Health Organization Guidelines on Provision of Wheelchairs in Less-Resourced Settings.

Method: Qualitative methods were used. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with 22 participants who were identified through purposive sampling. Content analysis of data was preformed around the construct of wheelchair service delivery.

Results: Study findings identified gaps between the guiding documents and wheelchair service delivery. Areas where gaps were identified included service aspects such as referral, assessment, prescription, user and provider training, follow up, maintenance and repair as well as management aspects such as staff support, budget and monitoring. Positive findings related to individual assessments, enthusiastic and caring staff and the provision of wheelchairs at no cost.

Conclusion: The gaps in policy implementation can have a negative impact on users and the service provider. Inappropriate or no wheelchairs limit user function, participation and quality of life. In addition, an inappropriate wheelchair will have a shorter lifespan, requiring frequent repairs and replacements with cost implications for the service provider.


wheelchair service delivery; rural; South Africa; United Nations Convention on the Rights of persons with disabilities; policy-implementation gap; WHO guidelines on provision of wheelchairs in low resourced settings


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Crossref Citations

1. Rural South Africans’ rehabilitation experiences: Case studies from the Northern Cape Province
Surona Visagie, Leslie Swartz
South African Journal of Physiotherapy  vol: 72  issue: 1  year: 2016  
doi: 10.4102/sajp.v72i1.298