People with intellectual disabilities as researchers: establishing an inclusive research team

Mrs Felicity Crowther1, Mrs Fiona Rillotta1, Mr Dean Whitehead, Ms Ruth Northway2

1Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, 2University of South Wales, Pontypridd, Wales

This study aims to explore the experiences of inclusive research team members’ participation in an inclusive research project. The study explores the experiences of team members with and without intellectual disability in terms of their perceptions of the barriers and enablers to effective inclusive research processes. The study also explores the process of undertaking inclusive research.

A critical ethnographic approach was employed for this study. The inclusive research team (N=6) have undertaken research skills training and are developing and undertaking an inclusive research project. Data collection to explore experiences and the research process included semi-structured interviews with team members, focus groups following research skills training, participant observation and field notes. Data is being collected prior, during and following the inclusive research project allowing observation of the teams experiences over time and an in-depth exploration of the research process (including ethical challenges and the establishment of the inclusive research team).

Practical and ethical challenges associated with establishing an inclusive research team will be discussed, as will preliminary outcomes for participants including their expectations of participating in an inclusive research team and their experience of the research skills training.

Utilising existing relationships within the disability sector to facilitate the establishment of an inclusive research team is important. Open dialogue with the ethics committee has been critical. This study demonstrates the importance of a considered approach to establishing the inclusive research team.


Felicity Crowther is Executive Director of the South Australian Council on Intellectual Disability (SACID), an organisation who works towards achieving a community inclusive of people with intellectual disability. Felicity is passionate about supporting people with intellectual disability to have a voice within their community helping with the development of self-advocacy programs and supporting individual people with intellectual disability in their self-advocacy roles. This passion for supporting people with intellectual disability has led Felicity to undertake a PhD in the area of inclusive research. Felicity also enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion with students through tutoring at Flinders University.

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