Factors that impact on access to water and sanitation for older adults and people with disability in rural South Africa: An occupational justice perspective

Laura Wrisdale, Matodzi Michael Mokoena, Lutendo Sylvia Mudau, Jo-Anne Geere (Lead Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Limited access to water and sanitation is a risk to health, dignity, and ability to engage in occupations. This article aims to: 1) discuss the current and historical factors affecting access to water and sanitation in rural South Africa, and 2) explore the occupational implications of water access, particularly for older adults and people with disability in rural South Africa. A literature review was carried out through searching JSTOR, Scopus, and MEDLINE databases and using framework analysis to interpret the retrieved documents. This paper also reports a thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews, conducted in 2012 in a rural area of South Africa. Environmental, political, social-economic and attitudinal factors were identified as impacting water access and occupation, in both the documentary analysis and the semi-structured interviews. Due to South Africa’s history, injustice has occurred in the forms of occupational apartheid and occupational deprivation. We argue that supply systems must enable people to easily access more water than is essential for survival, so that people can participate in meaningful and productive occupations. Therefore, access to water should be considered part of an occupational right. Recognising this right will be an integral step in ensuring that water supplies are improved to support better livelihoods, and to achieve economic and social empowerment, and quality of life for all, in line with many of the United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-279
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Occupational Science
Issue number3
Early online date21 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Water
  • Sanitation
  • Disability
  • Older adults
  • History
  • Occupational justice

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