Disability grants

27 February 2006

Living conditions of people with Disability grants play a vital role in improving the livelihood of disabled people, often supporting their entire families. However, they have less access to education and employment, increasing their dependency on this short-term solution.

This eye-opener is one of the findings of a study undertaken by the School of health and Rehabilitation Sciences on the living conditions of people with disabilities in the Eastern and Western Cape. These two provinces were chosen specifically to allow for comparison between urban and rural Xhosa-speaking participants.

The project used the international classification of functioning, disability and health (ICF), developed by the world health organisation, to document the situation of disabled people within the South African context.

The study found that, thanks to government disability grants, the income of households with and those without a disabled family member in the western cape were more or less equal. In the Eastern Cape, however, there was a major difference, with households with a disabled family member having significantly more income and possessions. In both cases disability becomes a survival strategy because of its income-earning potential.

Research also indicated that people with disabilities in rural areas are generally more accepted as members of their community and perceive less barriers than those residing in urban, informal settlements. Barriers include public buildings, mobility, community support, societal attitudes and health services.

The transitory nature of life for disabled people in urban areas was also highlighted, as many of them migrate to the Western Cape in search of economic empowerment and better living conditions. however, instead of their lives improving, they encounter new challenges such as adaptation and inter-ethnic tensions, as well as constraints faced by local government in providing services to an increasing migrant community.

UCT joined forces with the University of Oslo, Disabled People South Africa (DPSa) and SINTEF health Research, based in Norway, to put together this project.

Funded by the National Research Foundation and the Norwegian Research Foundation, the two-year study was based on a sample of 4 917 respondents, and a total of 950 households in both provinces.

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