What makes community activities accessible? The views of adults with intellectual disability

Dr Allyson Thomson1, Dr Lydia Timms1, Assoc. Professor Anne Whitworth1

1Curtin University, Perth, Australia

One aspect of community participation that is consistently difficult for people with intellectual disability (ID) is accessing community activities. People with ID may face different obstacles to participation than people with physical and sensory impairments. These may include slow processing and reaction time, difficulty understanding complex systems, and low literacy rates. The aim of this pilot study was to identify and explore, alongside people with ID, issues related to accessibility of community activities.

Five adults with ID were recruited to the study which employed a participatory methodology. Each volunteer carried out two photographic assignments: (1) to photograph community activities they like to do and (2) to photograph community activities they find hard to do. To explore the meanings represented within the photos, interviews were conducted using a combination of Photovoice and Talking Mats techniques to guide discussions about barriers and facilitators in each context.

A series of factors influencing the accessibility of community activities were identified and described by participants. Both facilitators and barriers to community participation will be described and illustrated.

Use of visual techniques offers a useful and inclusive platform to allow researchers insight into the perspectives of people with ID.

Understanding the perceptions of people with ID about barriers and facilitators to participation is an important first step in enhancing community engagement. Improving clarity around barriers and facilitators can inform changes to make it easier for people with ID disability to join activities in the community.


Allyson has been involved in intellectual disability research for much of the last 15 years. She has been employed at Curtin University for the last seven of those years. She has undertaken research using both quantitative and qualitative methods, but prefers to investigate the lived experiences of people with intellectual disability and their families and carers. Allyson is a Director of the Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability (ASID) and has an active involvement in several ASID committees. She also volunteers for Befrend, an organisation dedicated to developing a truly inclusive society.

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