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Access to healthcare for people with disabilities in South Africa: Bad at any time, worse during COVID-19?

Emma L. McKinney, Victor McKinney, Leslie Swartz
South African Family Practice | Vol 63, No 1 : Part 3| a5226 | DOI: | © 2021 Emma L. McKinney, Victor McKinney, Leslie Swartz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 September 2020 | Published: 19 July 2021

About the author(s)

Emma L. McKinney, Interdisciplinary Centre for Sports Science and Development, Faculty of Community and Health Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Victor McKinney, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Human Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Leslie Swartz, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa


People with disabilities, especially those living in low- and middle-income countries, experience significant challenges in accessing healthcare services and support. At times of disasters and emergencies, people with disabilities are further marginalised and excluded. During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many people with disabilities are unable to access healthcare facilities, receive therapeutic interventions or rehabilitation, or gain access to medication. Of those who are able to access facilities, many experience challenges, and at times direct discrimination, accessing life-saving treatment such as intensive care unit admission and ventilator support. In addition, research has shown that people with disabilities are at higher risk of contracting the virus because of factors that include the need for interpersonal caregivers and living in residential facilities. We explore some of the challenges that people with disabilities residing in South Africa currently experience in relation to accessing healthcare facilities.


disability; healthcare access; equity; discrimination; South Africa; COVID-19; health systems research; human rights.


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