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A description of assistive technology sources, services and outcomes of use in a number of African settings


Purpose statement: The article explores assistive technology sources, services and outcomes in South Africa, Namibia, Malawi and Sudan.

Methods: A survey was done in purposively selected sites of the study countries. Cluster sampling followed by random sampling served to identify 400–500 households (HHs) with members with disabilities per country. A HH questionnaire and individual questionnaire was completed. Country level analysis was limited to descriptive statistics.

Results: Walking mobility aids was most commonly bought/provided (46.3%), followed by visual aids (42.6%). The most common sources for assistive technology were government health services (37.8%), “other” (29.8%), and private health services (22.9%). Out of the participants, 59.3% received full information in how to use the device. Maintenance was mostly done by users and their families (37.3%). Devices helped a lot in 73.3% of cases and improved quality of life for 67.9% of participants, while 39.1% experienced functional difficulties despite the devices.

Conclusion: Although there is variation between the study settings, the main impression is that of fragmented or absent systems of provision of assistive technology.

•Implications for rehabilitation

•Provision of assistive technology and services varied between countries, but the overall impression was of poor provision and fragmented services.

•The limited provision of assistive technology for personal care and handling products is of concern as many of these devices requires little training and ongoing support while they can make big functional differences.

•Rural respondents experienced more difficulties when using the device and received less information on use and maintenance of the device than their urban counterparts.

•A lack of government responsibility for assistive device services correlated with a lack of information and/or training of participants and maintenance of devices.


Academic article




  • Surona Visagie
  • Arne Henning Eide
  • Hasheem Mannan
  • Marguerite Schneider
  • Leslie Swartz
  • Gubela Mji
  • Alister Munthali
  • Mustafa Khogali
  • Gert van Rooy
  • Karl-Gerhard Hem
  • Malcolm MacLachlan


  • University of Stellenbosch
  • SINTEF Digital / Health Research
  • The University of Dublin, Trinity College
  • University of Cape Town
  • University of Malawi
  • Ahfad University for Women
  • University of Namibia



Published in

Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology




Informa Healthcare






705 - 712

View this publication at Cristin