Centenary of the UCT Faculty of Health Sciences

Access to livelihood assets among youth with and without disabilities in South Africa: Implications for health professional education

Theresa Lorenzo, Jane Murray Cramm


Purpose. This study compared access to 5 livelihood assets among disabled and non-disabled youth, to inform health professionals on inequities related to disability and to monitor the transformation agenda aimed at creating an inclusive society.
Methods. Fieldworkers interviewed 989 youth (18 - 35 years; 523 (52.9%) disabled youth (DY), 466 (47.1%) non-disabled youth (NDY)) at 9 sites in 5 South African provinces. Descriptive statistics were used to describe demographic characteristics and livelihood assets. Chi-squared and t-tests were used for comparisons.
Results. Doctors at hospitals and nurses at clinics are health professionals most frequently seen. Far fewer DY than NDY attended and completed school. Unemployment was markedly more common among DY than among NDY. Barriers to accessing employment for DY were poor health and lack of skills development, and a lack of job opportunities for NDY. Both groups received the same amount of support from immediate household members, but significantly more NDY received support from extended family, friends, partners, and neighbours. They spent significantly more time engaging in all free-time activities. NDY reported more access to bathrooms, phone, and newspapers, as well as public services and the business sector. Participation and access were limited for both groups because of inaccessible public transport.
Conclusion. This paper shows that DY have a greater struggle to access livelihood assets than non-disabled peers. The Disability Studies Academic Programme at the University of Cape Town is an initiative that seeks to take specific focused action with disability organisations in order to address the inequities faced by disabled youth to ensure their inclusion in development to the same degree as their non-disabled peers.

Authors' affiliations

Theresa Lorenzo, Disability Studies and Occupational Therapy, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town

Jane Murray Cramm, Institute of Health Policy and Management (iBMG), Erasmus University, Rotterdam

Full Text



Disability, youth development, livelihoods, community based rehabilitation, South Africa

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2012;102(6):578-581.

Article History

Date submitted: 2012-01-26
Date published: 2012-05-23

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