Original Research

Strategies employed in coping with physical disabilities acquired during adulthood in rural South Africa

Marubini C. Sadiki, Israel Kibirige
African Journal of Disability | Vol 11 | a907 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v11i0.907 | © 2022 Marubini C. Sadiki, Israel Kibirige | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 June 2021 | Published: 05 August 2022

About the author(s)

Marubini C. Sadiki, Department of Research Administration and Development, University of Limpopo, Polokwane, South Africa
Israel Kibirige, Department of Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education, Faculty of Humanities, University of Limpopo, Polokwane, South Africa


Background: Society places people with physical disabilities acquired during adulthood in disadvantaged positions, especially when they cannot participate in activities like their non-disabled counterparts. The situation can be worse for individuals who acquire disabilities during adulthood, where they have to learn to cope with the adulthood-acquired physical disabilities.

Objectives: This study aimed to identify the types of physical disabilities acquired during adulthood and their causes and explore how participants defined their disabilities and the coping strategies they used.

Methods: The study used a phenomenological research design. Five adults (three women, two men) with adulthood-acquired disabilities were purposefully selected from a rural area in Limpopo, South Africa. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis was used to generate themes about coping strategies study participants used.

Results: The results show four types of adulthood-acquired disabilities amongst the participants: visual impairment, paraplegia, weakened muscles which led to bilateral amputation, loss of function on both hands and legs. Participants’ meanings of their physical adulthood-acquired disabilities ranged from a punishment, pain, not a bother, black magic, to results of doing wrong things to someone. In coming to terms with their adulthood-acquired disabilities, participants used problem- and emotion-focused strategies. Four themes from the participants’ responses were spiritual support, social support, substance dependency, access to health and rehabilitation services.

Conclusion: The study contributes to understanding the experiences of individuals who acquired disabilities in adulthood, how they define their disabilities and the divergent coping strategies they use. This study established that participants used problem-focused, positive emotion-focused and negative emotion-focused coping strategies.


adulthood-acquired disability; coping strategies; support; experiences; rural community


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