More than just assistive devices : how a South African social enterprise supports an environment of inclusion

Trafford, Zara ; Van Der Westhuizen, Erna ; McDonald, Shona ; Linegar, Margi ; Swartz, Leslie (2021)

CITATION: Trafford, Z., et al. 2021. More than just assistive devices : how a South African social enterprise supports an environment of inclusion. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(5):2655, doi:10.3390/ijerph18052655.

The original publication is available at

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Appropriate assistive technology has the potential to considerably enhance quality of life, access to health and education, and social and economic participation for people with disabilities. Most disabled people in the world live in low- and middle-income countries where access to assistive devices and other support is severely lacking. There is little evidence that describes contextually relevant approaches to meeting these needs, particularly in African countries. We provide a detailed description of a South African organisation which has manufactured mobility and seating devices for children with disabilities since 1992. The Shonaquip Social Enterprise (SSE) also trains and builds capacity among a wide range of stakeholders (caregivers, health workers, educators, government, and communities) to acknowledge and advocate for the wellbeing of disabled children and adults, and works closely with government to strengthen existing service provisions. Using examples from the SSE, we highlight a number of useful principles to consider when trying to provide for the needs of people with disabilities, particularly in low-resource settings. While access to assistive devices is important, devices have limited capacity to improve participation if the broader environment is overly restrictive and stigmatising. Improved access to devices ought to be situated within a range of broader efforts to increase the inclusion and participation of people with disabilities.

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