Barriers in Using Assistive Devices among a Group of Community-dwelling Persons with Lower Limb Disabilities in Sri Lanka
Purpose: Rehabilitation with assistive devices is of great benefit to people with limb disabilities, enabling them to lead independent and productive lives. While assistive devices improve the quality of life of persons with lower limb disabilities by facilitating activities of daily living, there are also many barriers to their use. This study aims to describe these barriers among community-dwelling persons with lower limb disabilities in central Sri Lanka.
Methods: A community survey was conducted among adults between 18 and 59 years of age, to find persons with lower limb disabilities in Kandy Municipal Council area, in the central province of Sri Lanka. This was followed by purposive sampling to select a sub-sample of 12 individuals with unilateral lower limb disabilities for a qualitative study using in-depth interviews. Unilateral lower limb disabilities were identified using a clinical examination and World Health Organisation Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 (WHODAS 2.0). A qualitative thematic content analysis was used to evaluate the interview text.
Results: Participants described several barriers in using assistive devices, such as unaffordable assistive technology like wheelchairs and artificial limbs, unavailability of appropriate assistive technology, difficulties associated with repair and maintenance, and problems in accessibility. Limited knowledge of modern technology also restricted their choice of better devices. Psychological barriers and stigma in using assistive devices directly affected their social lives and day-to-day activities as well.
Conclusion and Implications: People with lower limb disabilities face multiple barriers in using assistive devices. These barriers need to be addressed by improving local infrastructure and accessibility facilities, public awareness and funding, and ensuring continuous supply and maintenance services.
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