Menu Types of Mobility Impairments - Disability Info SA

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Mobility Impairments or a physical disability is one that affects a person's mobility or dexterity, it can be the result of an accident, leading to paralysis, loss of limbs or brain damage, or can be genetic, like Spina Bifida, Muscular Dystrophy, or people who are born without limbs. There are a wide variety of different types of physical disabilities that fall under Mobility Impairments, whatever  the cause of the disability, persons with disabilities require a different set of emotional and physical needs & may need to use some sort of equipment for assistance with mobility & for them to be able to fully participate in society. There are also various organizations in South Africa that assist & support different disability groups with a wide variety of services. An example of this type of organization is The QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA), who assists Quadriplegics & Paraplegics living in South Africa.

QASA:The QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA) is a non-profit organisation (NPO 000-881) of Quadriplegics and Paraplegics in South Africa.QuadPara Association of South Africa

QASA’s mission is “to improve lives by securing resources to advocate, educate, capacitate, support and mobilize”. QASA develops products, programmes and services for quadriplegic and paraplegic members to build their capacity and ensure opportunities for societal integration and empowerment. QASA’s vision is that “all quadriplegics and paraplegics will live their lives to their full potential”.

QASA is a member of the South Africa Disability Alliance (SADA) and has significant relationships with other such organisations, such as the Department of Social Development, the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players Fund and the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities in South Africa (NCPD).

Four Regional Associations are affiliated to QASA: Gauteng South, Gauteng North, Western Cape and North West. The QASA Management Board is made up of representatives of each Regional Association.

QASA invests in programmes that up skills and supports members who pursue employment opportunities, whether this is through skills development, employment programmes that educate employers on the value proposition of our skilled members, or bursaries for tertiary or continued education.

The organisation supports the health and wellness of its members through educational programmes for members, caregivers, and the healthcare sector. Well-researched information is shared with members and the public sector. QASA provides better mobility, assistive devices, and accessibility for its members to ensure a barrier-free environment. This includes assisting with accessible housing, independent living solutions and even driver training programmes.

QASA also advocates and lobbies on behalf of its members to ensure universal access and inclusion in the built environment and transport nodes. This includes disability awareness and sensitisation workshops, access audits, and the promotion of the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Prevention of spinal cord injury forms part of our advocacy commitment.

QASA is sustained by strategic relationships with corporates, social enterprise, the National Lottery Commission and a number of campaigns and events. Some of QASA’s projects generate revenue which services the essential non-revenue generating projects.

To support the QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA), you can contact them on telephonically at 031 767 0352, on e-mail at, or send a letter to P.O. Box 2368, Pinetown, 3600, South Africa. Alternatively visit their website at

Visit our Organizations - Mobility Impairments page to find out more about The QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA) and other organizations that assist persons with Mobility Impairments, or read the information below to find out more about the various conditions that can lead to Mobility Impairments.

Absent limb/reduced limb function

A person can be born without limbs due to a Birth Defect, they can lose their limbs as a result of an injury or accident, or though amputation because of a diseases like sugar diabetes, cancerous Tumor or inadequate blood flow.

Birth Defect

Birth Defect is referred to as a “limb reduction” because a limb is reduced from its normal size or is missing. Upper and lower limb reduction defects occur when a part of or the entire arm (upper limb) or leg (lower limb) of a fetus fails to form completely during pregnancy. The cause of limb reduction defects is unknown. However, research has shown that certain behaviors or exposures during pregnancy can increase the risk of having a baby with a limb reduction defect.

These include:

  • Exposure of the mother to certain chemicals or viruses while she is pregnant
  • Exposure of the mother to certain medications
  • Possible exposure of the mother to tobacco smoking (although more research is needed)


Loss of Limbs through Accidents

Loss of Limbs through Accidents are called Traumatic Amputations & can happen during some serious accidents, where a person's body part may be literally torn off & this is classed as being an amputation caused by trauma.  Accidents which sometimes lead to this type of amputation include:

  • Road Accidents and in particular, motorcycle accidents, cycle accidents and accidents involving pedestrians.
  • Accidents at work, particularly those involving dangerous machinery.
  • Severe injury (from a vehicle accident or serious burn, for example)
  • Frostbite, caused by extreme cold.
  • Attack by people animals like Sharks, etc.



Amputation is the surgical removal of all or part of a limb such as an arm, leg, foot, hand, toe, or finger. There are many reasons an amputation may be necessary. The most common is poor circulation because of damage or narrowing of the arteries, called peripheral arterial disease. Without adequate blood flow, the body's cells cannot get oxygen and nutrients they need from the bloodstream. As a result, the affected tissue begins to die and infection may set in.

Other diseases that cause amputation may include:

  • Cancerous tumor in the bone or muscle of the limb
  • Serious infection that does not get better with antibiotics or other treatment
  • Thickening of nerve tissue, called a Neuroma.
  • Sugar Diabetes can cause blood sugar levels to stay high, the nerve cells swell and scar. After a while, the nerves can't send messages to the legs and feet the way they should, this causes the skin to die.
  • Pneumococcal Meningitis causes over 20% of its patients to die & 50% suffered from long term complications which include limb amputation. Meningitis can cause Sepsis, which usually begins as Patikia rash, which will gradually result in limb amputation or even death eventually.



Arthritis is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation in one or more joints. There are over 100 different forms of arthritis. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, other forms of Arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis, Septic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, & related autoimmune diseases.

The major complaint by individuals who have arthritis is joint pain. Pain is often constant, and may be localized to the joint affected. The pain from arthritis is due to inflammation that occurs around the joint, damage to the joint from disease, daily wear and tear of joint, muscle strains caused by forceful movements against stiff painful joints and fatigue.


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, & is a result of trauma to the joint, infection of the joint, or old age.


Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. Autoimmune diseases are illnesses that occur when the body's tissues are mistakenly attacked by their own immune system. The immune system contains a complex organization of cells and antibodies designed normally to "seek and destroy" invaders of the body, particularly infections. Patients with autoimmune diseases have antibodies and immune cells in their blood that target their own body tissues, where they can be associated with inflammation. While inflammation of the tissue around the joints and inflammatory arthritis are characteristic features of rheumatoid arthritis, the disease can also cause inflammation and injury in other organs in the body. Because it can affect multiple other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease. Rheumatoid arthritis that begins in people under 16 years of age is referred to as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (formerly juvenile rheumatoid arthritis).


Septic Arthritis

Septic Arthritis is also known as infectious arthritis, and is usually caused by bacteria, or fungus. The condition is an inflammation of a joint that's caused by infection. Normally it affects one large joint in the body, such as the knee or hip. Less frequently, septic arthritis can affect multiple joints.


Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic Arthritis is a form of arthritis that affects some people who have psoriasis, a condition that features red patches of skin topped with silvery scales. Most people develop psoriasis first and are later diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, but the joint problems can sometimes begin before skin lesions appear.
Joint pain, stiffness and swelling are the main symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. They can affect any part of your body, including your fingertips and spine, and can range from relatively mild to severe. In both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, disease flares may alternate with periods of remission.
No cure for psoriatic arthritis exists, so the focus is on controlling symptoms and preventing damage to your joints. Without treatment, psoriatic arthritis may be disabling.


Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune Diseases are a broad range of related diseases in which a person's immune system produces an inappropriate response against its own cells, tissues and/or organs, resulting in inflammation and damage. There are over 80 different autoimmune diseases, and these range from common to very rare diseases.


Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is often described as 'brain paralysis' or 'non-progressive neurological disorder'. In this medical condition, the brain's motor area is damaged or fails to develop properly. The damage may be due to injury, trauma or some illness, which may occur before a baby is born, during the birth process or after birth, or the brain developmental failure may have genetic causes.
There is no definite consensus on what exactly causes Cerebral Palsy. It is, however, not a hereditary disorder nor is it contagious, and the term 'non-progressive' means that the damage to the brain, while irreversible, does not deteriorate over time; but, the effect on the body brought about by the brain damage can get worse, or improve.

The group of disorders involve brain & nervous system functions, such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing and thinking. There are different types including spastic, athetoid, ataxic, hypotonic & also mixed, where there is a combination of the other types in one person.


Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system. The nervous system is affected by body's immune response that results in demyelination, where the sheath of neurons of central nervous system is damaged.


Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular Dystrophy (MD) is a hereditary disease characterized by progressive muscle weakness. It prevents the movement of muscles & is a group of more than 30 inherited diseases.

It causes weakening & breaking down of muscle fibers. The muscles become weak & susceptible to damage. This disease affects the voluntary or skeletal muscles, which control the movements of legs, arms, & trunk. It can also affect the heart muscles & other involuntary muscles, such as muscles in the gut. Some forms of MD are found in infancy or childhood, others may only appear until middle age. This progressive disease is more common in boys than girls.


Motor Neurone Disease (MND)

Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is a progressive disease that attacks the motor neurones, or nerves, in the brain and spinal cord. This means messages gradually stop reaching muscles, which leads to weakness and wasting. MND can affect how you walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe. However, not all symptoms necessarily happen to everyone and it is unlikely they will all develop at the same time, or in any specific order. Although there is currently no cure for MND, symptoms can be managed to help you achieve the best possible quality of life.


Paralysis due to damage to the nervous system or spinal cord

Paralysis is a medical condition wherein the person loses all the control over his muscles. Paralysis is a caused because of damage to the nervous system or spinal cord. The condition can be partial or complete, but is both the cases it can leads to dependency.

The two main physical disabilities that occur from injury to the spinal cord are:

  • Paraplegia
  • Quadriplegia/Tetraplegia

Varying degrees of loss of limb & other mobility may result from either condition.


Injury to the spinal cord at the thoracic level & below resulting in an impairment in motor or sensory function of the lower half of the body, is referred to as paraplegia.
This condition occurs due to damage to the cellular structure of the spinal cord within the spinal canal. The area of the spinal cord which is affected in paraplegia is either the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral regions of the spinal column.

The person retains full use of their arms & hands, but have poor trunk control & balance due to the lack of abdominal muscle control. Lower thoracic injuries (T-9 to T-12) retain good truck control & good abdominal muscle control.
The sitting balance of people with lower spinal cord injuries is usually very good. Injuries to the Lumbar & sacral injuries result in decreased control of the hip flexors & legs.



This caused by damage to the cervical spinal cord segments at levels C1-C8. Damage to the spinal cord is usually secondary to an injury to the spinal vertebrae in the cervical section of the spinal column. The injury to the cellular structure of the spinal cord is known as a lesion and may result in the loss of partial or total function in all four limbs, the arms & the legs.

Quadriplegia can be caused from damage to the spinal cord from:

  • Trauma, such as a car crash.
  • Sports & Recreation injuries, such as Rugby or Diving.
  • Diseases such as polio.
  • Congenital disorders, such as muscular dystrophy.

It is possible to injure the spinal cord without fracturing the spine, such as when a ruptured disc or bony spur on the vertebra protrudes into the spinal column.

Quadriplegia is also termed Tetraplegia. Both terms mean "paralysis of four limbs. "Tetraplegia is more commonly used in Europe than in the United States. In 1991, when the American Spinal Cord Injury Classification system was revised, it was recommended that the term tetraplegia be used to improve consistency ("tetra", like "plegia", has a Greek root, whereas "quadra" has a Latin root).

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Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda Equina syndrome is technically not a spinal cord injury, is often referred to as one by the medical community & may result in paraplegia.

The spinal cord usually terminates between the first & second lumbar vertebra forming the Conus Medullas. Emerging from this is a bundle of lumbar & sacral nerve roots called the Cauda Equina, which is Latin for horses tail, because of their appearance.

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Hemiplegia can occur in babies, children or adults, it is when one side of the body is paralysed. It can affect either side of the body & is caused by damage to the brain, such as a stroke.

This can happen in babies, before, during or after birth. The condition can be congenital or acquired. No one knows what causes the damage in these cases.
Hemiplegia can also be acquired. This is caused by damage to the brain, such as a stroke, in childhood or traumatic injury to brain during child birth such as forceps delivery.

This condition can affect any child, but it is slightly more common in premature babies. It is quite a common condition, affecting one in 1000 births.

An injury to the right side of the brain will cause the left side of the body to be paralysed & an injury to the left side of the brain will cause the right side of the body to be paralysed.
Sometimes the condition will only become clear as the baby gets older, such as when they have trouble walking.


Paralysis of the Face

Paralysis of the face is a condition in which one side of the face does not feature any kind of movement. This condition can be conducted by various factors such as Bell's Palsy, brain tumor, birth trauma, stroke, etc.


Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome is an inflammatory disorder that damages the body's immune system. The condition results in weakness and numbness in extremities and finally, paralysis.


Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system, characterized by impaired muscular coordination and tremors.
Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that is chronic and progressive, affecting the part of the brain that controls the movement of muscles.



Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease caused by the polio virus. In about 0.5% of cases there is muscle weakness resulting in an inability to move. This can occur over a few hours to few days. The weakness most often involves the legs but may less commonly involve the muscles of the head, neck and diaphragm. Some people fully recover. Years after recovery post-polio syndrome may occur, with a slow development of muscle weakness similar to that which the person had during the initial infection.

The Polio virus is usually spread from person to person through infected fecal matter entering the mouth. It may also be spread by food or water containing human feces and less commonly from infected saliva.

Read More....


A stroke results from insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain and leads to sudden loss of consciousness. It should be treated immediately or it may prove fatal. If you identify the symptoms of a stroke early enough, they can be diagnosed & treated in time.



Organizations for Mobility Impairments
Gold Level Membership
QuadPara Association of South Africa