Physiotherapists’ Perceptions of Disability Awareness in KwaZulu-Natal

  •  Joan Pather    
  •  Stacy Maddocks    
  •  Nomzamo Chemane    
  •  Verusia Chetty    


BACKGROUND: Disability awareness is essential for rehabilitation professionals, such as physiotherapists, to provide an understanding of disability and to influence environmental and attitudinal societal barriers. There is a paucity of literature on the perceptions of physiotherapists about disability awareness in the South African context.

OBJECTIVES: To explore the perceptions of physiotherapists on disability awareness in order to influence the rehabilitative care offered to people with disability.

METHOD: This study adopted an explorative, descriptive qualitative design. Two focus group discussions were conducted with public healthcare physiotherapists employed at urban and rural facilities. Transcribed data were analysed using conventional content thematic analysis. There were five participants in each group: two males and eight females, with nine participants having worked for more than six years.

RESULTS: The discussions revealed five major themes: consequences of a dearth of knowledge; personal influence; facilitators of disability awareness; barriers to disability awareness; and recommendations.

CONCLUSION: Access to healthcare is hindered by a lack of understanding, and the subsequent behaviour, including the stigmatisation of people with disabilities. The study highlighted that poor knowledge of disability and lack of cultural sensitivity among physiotherapists working among communities strongly motivated by cultural beliefs, may influence the rehabilitation of people living with disability. It was concluded that self-reflection, coupled with deeper community engagement and continuing professional development, would enhance physiotherapy practice and disability awareness in the future.

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