WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 150-158

Exploring the factors that influence the perceptions of disability: a qualitative study of mothers of children with disabilities at a community-based rehabilitation centre in Sri Lanka

1 Doctor of Physical Therapy Division; Duke Global Health Institute, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America
2 Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI), Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America
3 Doctor of Physical Therapy Division, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America
4 Ruhuna University Hospital, Galle, Sri Lanka

Correspondence Address:
Michel D Landry
Associate Professor and Division Chief, Doctor of Physical Therapy Division, Box 104002, Duke University, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27708
United States of America
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.206684

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Background: The prevalence of disability is growing worldwide; however, perceptions regarding disability are not well understood. The aim of this study was to explore factors that influence the perception of disability among mothers of children with disabilities who were attending a community-based rehabilitation facility in Sri Lanka. Methods: A descriptive qualitative research design was employed. Thirteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants receiving rehabilitation services at a community-based facility. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and coded using software for qualitative data. Results: Three major themes emerged from the analysis: (i) level of family and community support; (ii) spiritual and cultural interpretations of disability; and (iii) outcomes of rehabilitation services. Perceptions of disability appeared to be strongly influenced by the social, community and spiritual/cultural support structure in which the mothers lived. In particular, the support from the participant’s spouse emerged as a primary factor exerting strong influence on perception, and future outlook, among the participants. Engagement in community-based rehabilitation programming also reinforced positive perceptions, created a sense of hope among participants regarding their child’s future, and established aspirations for future education and employment opportunities alongside social integration. Conclusion: Knowledge of factors that influence the perception of disability can inform future implementation of public-health and community-based initiatives, and may improve social integration of children with disabilities in lower-resource settings.

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