Conducting Research with Individuals Who Have Intellectual Disabilities: Ethical and Practical Implications for Qualitative Research

Peer-reviewed article
(2013 Jan) Journal on Developmental Disabilities , 19


Kelly D. Coons, Shelley L. Watson


Despite the acknowledgement that individuals with intellectual disabilities are the experts on their own experiences, these individuals have been largely omitted from the disability discourse. Research in the field of disability has typically been done on individuals with disabilities, rather than with them, disempowering this already vulnerable population. Qualitative methodologies, such as Participatory Action Research (PAR), can be employed to involve individuals with intellectual disabilities in the research process. A review of the literature revealed a number of ethical (e.g., obtaining informed consent and assessing capacity) and practical challenges (e.g., recruitment, data collection, analytic strategy, researcher interpretation) that interfere with researchers engaging in PAR. These challenges must be overcome in order to empower persons with intellectual disabilities to participate in research.