Barriers to the Implementation of the Health and Rehabilitation Articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in South Africa

Document Type : Original Article


1 Centre for Global Health, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland

2 School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland

3 Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa


The United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is a milestone in the recognition of the human rights of persons with disabilities, including the right to health and rehabilitation. South Africa has signed and ratified the CRPD but still has a long way to go in reforming policies and systems in order to be in compliance with the convention. This paper seeks to fill a gap in the literature by exploring what the barriers to the implementation of the health and rehabilitation articles of the CRPD are, as identified by representatives of the disability community.
This investigation used a qualitative, exploratory methodology. 10 semi-structured interviews of a purposive sample of representatives of disabled persons organizations (DPOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and service providers in South Africa were conducted. Participants were drawn from urban, peri-urban, and rural settings in order to reflect diverse perspectives within South Africa. Data was analysed using a multi-stage coding process to establish the main categories and relationships between them.
Six main categories of barriers to the implementation of the health and rehabilitation articles of the CRPD were identified. Attitude barriers including stigma and negative assumptions about persons with disabilities were seen as an underlying cause and influence on all of the other categories; which included political, financial, health systems, physical, and communication barriers.
The findings of this study have important implications for strategies and actions to implement the CRPD. Given the centrality of attitudinal barriers, greater sensitization around the area of disability is needed. Furthermore, disability should be better integrated and mainstreamed into more general initiatives to develop the health system and improve the lives of persons living in poverty in South Africa.




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  • Receive Date: 04 December 2015
  • Revise Date: 13 August 2016
  • Accept Date: 15 August 2016
  • First Publish Date: 01 April 2017