Measuring disability in censuses: The case of South Africa

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This paper reports on findings from the South African census content research to develop a disability set of questions for Census 2011. The findings of this research are used to determine, firstly, whether the Washington Group on Disability Statistics (WG) Short Set (revised for the South African context) is an appropriate set of questions to measure disability in Censuses, and, secondly, whether it is sufficient to ask about basic domains in order to identify the population at risk of experiencing disability related disadvantage and discrimination. The methodology is a national survey using a population based representative sample. The focus of the research were two sets of questions: the first being the Short Set for Census proposed by the WG, and the second being the disability questions used in the 2001 South African Census. The survey comprised three questionnaires: a Household Questionnaire with one member of the household responding for the whole household; a Living Standard Measure (LSM) questionnaire administered to the same person about the whole household; and an adult questionnaire administered to all household members 15 years and older who could respond for themselves. The findings support the use of the revised WG Short Set as an appropriate Census measures. It captures a broader and more inclusive population as having difficulties compared to that captured on the Census 2001 disability question, without excluding the Census 2001 population captured as disabled. The results are inconclusive with regard to the sufficiency of basic domains as a measure of the population at risk. Further testing is required to understand how people understand and respond to questions such as 'do you have difficulties in taking care of your household responsibilities or in your day to day work/schoolwork?'. © 2009 Association ALTER.




Schneider, M., Dasappa, P., Khan, N., & Khan, A. (2009). Measuring disability in censuses: The case of South Africa. Alter, 3(3), 245–265.

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