A New Questionnaire for Understanding Disability

December 9, 2015

A recent study published in the PLOS ONE Journal evaluated an updated survey tool designed to measure levels of disability among individuals, specifically activity limitations and functioning difficulties.

Washington University’s Jean-Francois Trani from the Brown School of Social Work was principle investigator, collaborating with Ganesh Muneshwar Babulal from the neurology department and Parul Bakhshi from the program in occupational therapy to evaluate a revised Disability Screening Questionnaire, known as the DSQ-34. Development and testing was done in Afghanistan, Sudan (Darfur), Nepal, and India, as their objective was to test the usefulness of the DSQ-34 in low- to middle-income countries (LMICs) with limited health system capacity.

Associate Professor, Brown School

“Despite recent attempts to measure disability in low and middle-income countries, there is a lack of comprehensive, accessible and cross-culturally validated tools to identify persons facing activity limitations, functioning difficulties and participation restrictions,” the article states.


Trani and the research team specifically wanted to “identify activity limitations and functioning difficulties” prevalent in certain LMICs to assess what social services should be implemented or expanded to meet the needs of persons with disabilities there. They were also concerned with the intersection between poverty, stigma, and discrimination with access to services, as well as strategies to enhance social inclusion. They found the DSQ-34 performed well in identifying persons with disabilities in the general population, although it “does not give a conclusive, discriminative diagnostic of impairment but only the identification of overall activity limitations and functioning difficulties.” The questionnaire was most useful in combination with other screening tools for research on factors influencing disability as well as social and economic consequences associated with having a disability in a LMIC. “The DSQ-34 is a strong contribution towards monitoring the UNCRPD and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for people with disabilities as part of populations-based SDGs efforts,” concluded the study.

Trani has used the DSQ-34 on many other studies, and the publication of his latest research from Afghanistan is anticipated in the coming months.