Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

INTRODUCTION: Rehabilitation services aim to optimise individuals' functioning and reduce disability. However, people with disabilities, who represent a key population of users of rehabilitation services, continue to have unmet needs for rehabilitation services that include the provision of assistive devices. This paper examines the availability and accessibility of rehabilitation services in a rural district of South Africa in order to explore why unmet needs for rehabilitation services persist. METHODS: All nine district hospitals in a rural district of South Africa were included in the study. Rehabilitation services capacity was assessed by examining the available assistive devices, consumables and human resources at the level of the health facility. Data collection was conducted using the Global Co-operative Assistive Technology [GATE] Assistive Products List, AT2030's ATScale priority list and the South African National Catalogue of Commodities for Primary Health Care Facilities. Descriptive statistics were then used for the analysis. For the qualitative component, semi-structured interviews were conducted with adults with physical disabilities at household level to explore barriers to accessing assistive device inclusive rehabilitation services and the consequences thereof in the same rural district. An interview guide based on the WHO health system building blocks was used. Thematic content analysis guided the analysis of the interview transcripts. FINDINGS: The findings of the research demonstrate that rehabilitation service capacity in the district was constrained as a result of low availability of assistive devices [2-22%] and consumables [2-47%], as well as, possibly, a shortage of rehabilitation providers [n = 30] with an unequal distribution across health facilities [n = 9]. In addition, people with physical disabilities reported poor referral pathways, financial constraints, transport and road consideration and equipment unavailability as barriers to accessing rehabilitation services. Moreover, these barriers to access predisposed individuals to finance-, health- and person-related harm. CONCLUSION: Rehabilitation service availability is constrained by a lack of service capacity in rural South Africa. In addition, the rehabilitation services in district hospitals are not adequately accessible because of existing barriers to enable key populations to achieve optimised functioning.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Environ Res Public Health

Publication Date





accessibility, assistive devices, assistive technology, disability, rehabilitation, Adult, Disabled Persons, Health Services Accessibility, Humans, Rural Population, Self-Help Devices, South Africa