The experience of being disabled and obese.

PURPOSE: This qualitative study was designed to explore the experiences of disabled and severely obese people living in the community. The challenges that their size and disabilities posed within their homes and in accessing community facilities were explored, with particular reference to the provision and use of assistive technologies.

METHODS: The study comprised in-depth interviews with a sample of six severely obese, disabled people using a grounded theory approach.

RESULTS: Three key themes emerged: the experience of daily life; accessing services; and responses to challenges. The study participants found that their home and community environments were seldom adequate for their size. Difficulties were identified in relation to accessing and using NHS services and negative attitudes and treatment from staff. Assessments and quality of assistive devices and housing adaptations received were criticised by some. Participants identified a range of responses to these challenges.

CONCLUSION: The challenges that obesity bring are compounded by disability, including the need for higher levels of care and the higher costs of assistive devices for this client group. The study suggests there may be a need for training for professionals who work with obese, disabled people to ensure their needs are met in appropriate and cost-effective ways.