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Original Research

Is any wheelchair better than no wheelchair? A Zimbabwean perspective

Surona Visagie, Tecla Mlambo, Judith van der Veen, Clement Nhunzvi, Deborah Tigere, Elsje Scheffler

African Journal of Disability; Vol 4, No 1 (2015), 10 pages. doi: 10.4102/ajod.v4i1.201

Submitted: 30 June 2015
Published:  20 November 2015


Background: Within a rights-based paradigm, wheelchairs are essential in the promotion of user autonomy, dignity, freedom, inclusion and participation.

Objectives: This paper aimed to describe a group of Zimbabwean wheelchair users’ satisfaction with wheelchairs, wheelchair services and wheelchair function.

Method: A mixed method, descriptive study was done. Quantitative data was collected from 94 consecutively sampled wheelchair users, who accessed wheelchair services at 16 clinics in five Zimbabwean provinces between October 2013 and February 2014, using the Quebec User Evaluation of Satisfaction with Assistive Technology for adults and children and Functioning Every day with a Wheelchair questionnaire. Qualitative data were collected through two focus group discussions (22 participants) and two case studies with participants purposively sampled from those who participated in the quantitative phase.

Results: More than 60% of participants were dissatisfied with the following wheelchair features: durability (78.6%), weight (75.6%), ease of adjustment (69.1%), effectiveness (69.0%), safety (66.7%), reliability (66.7%), and meeting user needs (60.6%). Similarly, more than 66% of participants were dissatisfied with various services aspects: professional services (69.0%), follow-up (67.0%), and service delivery (68.3%). Although 60% of participants agreed that the wheelchair contributed to specific functions, more than 50% of participants indicated that the features of the wheelchair did not allow in- (53.2%) and outdoor (52.7%) mobility.

Conclusion: Findings indicate high levels of dissatisfaction with wheelchair features and services, as well as mobility. It is recommended that policy and minimum service standards which incorporate evidence and good practice guidelines for wheelchair services and management of wheelchair donations are developed for Zimbabwe.

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Author affiliations

Surona Visagie, Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Tecla Mlambo, College of Health Sciences, University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
Judith van der Veen, CBM Africa, East London, Zimbabwe
Clement Nhunzvi, College of Health Sciences, University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
Deborah Tigere, CBM Africa, East London, South Africa
Elsje Scheffler, Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


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