Disability-disaggregated data are increasingly considered important to monitor progress in Universal Eye Health Care. Hospital-based data are still elusive because of the cultural ambiguities of the term disability, especially in under-resourced Health Information Systems in low-and middle-income countries. The aim of this study was to estimate the hospital-based rate of disability in patients presenting at an eye department of a rural hospital in Paraguay and to discuss implications for the management of access barriers. Therefore, we introduced two standardized sets of the Washington Group (WG) Questions as a pilot project. In total, 999 patients answered the self-report WG short set (WG-SS) questionnaire with six functional domains, and 501 of these patients answered an extended set, which included additional domains for "anxiety" and "depression" (WG-ES3). Overall, 27.7% (95% Confidence Interval (CI) 24.9-30.3) were categorized as having a disability. A total of 9.6% (95% CI 7.9-11.6) were categorized as having a disability because of communication difficulties, which was second only to visual difficulties. The odds ratio for disability for patients aged 70 years and older was 8.5 (95% CI 5.0-14.4) and for male patients, it was 0.83 (95% CI 0.62-1.1). Of those patients who answered the WG-ES3, 3.4% were categorized as having a disability because of being worried, nervous or anxious and 1.4% because of feeling depressed. An analysis of the questions of the "depression" domain was impeded by a high rate of measurement errors. The results of the different domains can now be used to inform the identification and mitigation of potential access barriers to eye health services for different types of impairments.
Keywords: Washington Group; disability; health information system; inclusive eye health.