Towards Truly Universal Access: Barriers to accessing health services for people with disabilities in Northwest Syria, May 2023 – Syrian Arab Republic


Executive summary


The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) conducted a study to better understand the barriers to accessing healthcare services for people with disabilities in Northwest Syria. Barriers, in this regard, were classified into financial, structural, communication, and attitudinal barriers. In addition to improving understanding of barriers to accessing services, the study also aimed to examine the prevalence of disability among SAMS’ beneficiaries and workers and understand coping mechanisms by the affected population and their recommendations.

The research answered the following questions:

RQ#1 What is the prevalence of disability in NWS?
RQ#2 What are the most reported barriers to access health services for people with disabilities in North west Syria?
RQ#3: What are some of the key recommendations to provide disability-inclusive services?

Key findings and recommendations

Overall, it was demonstrated that prevalence of disability among beneficiaries of SAMS’ health services were 15.5% for adults. This is comparable to global research (15%-15.8%) on disability prevalence. No significant difference was found between male and female beneficiaries.

The top-level findings of this research are as follows:

  • Transportation was found to be the top structural barrier to access both specialized and general healthcare for people with disability. No significant difference was found between specialized and general services.

  • Cost of transportation, cost of medicines (particularly for chronic and rare diseases) and cost for certain tertiary diagnostic and treatment services were the top financial barriers for people with disabilities.

  • Barriers increase as the level of healthcare services increases. Patients with disabilities requiring secondary or tertiary services face more barriers as compared to those requiring primary health services.

  • No statistically significant difference was found between the attitudes of people with disabilities toward specialized and general healthcare services, which indicates similar barriers to access in both types of services.

  • Information about available and free services was found to be one of the top communication barriers. The way information is presented to people with disabilities lacks accommodations to their specific needs.

  • Attitudes of healthcare workers in both specialized and general healthcare services were found to be positive and do not present a barrier for people with disabilities. However, no evidence of adaptations in the provision of care to accommodate for the needs of people with disabilities.

  • No significant difference was found in the attitudes of female and male patients towards healthcare services. They both shared the perception of facing the same barriers.


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