Elizabeth Lockwood

One good practice to support real change toward inclusion is to actively recruit and hire researchers with disabilities to carry out research in international development and humanitarian action.

The following is a good practice in which researchers with disabilities carried out research on the Experiences of Persons with Disabilities in the COVID-19 Pandemic in Bangladesh, Bolivia and Nigeria.

As background, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities carried out two phases of qualitative research to gather information on the experiences of persons with disabilities in the context of the pandemic and to complement existing COVID-19 research studies. The first phase of research took place in 2020 with disability movement leaders from around the world and the second phase followed in 2021 exploring three countries in depth: Bangladesh, Bolivia, and Nigeria.

The second phase of research was funded by CBM Global Disability Inclusion. CBM Global follows the principle of nothing about us without, and thus employed researchers with disabilities to carry out the collection of data, analysis, and writing and translation (in two cases) of the final reports. Four researchers with a diverse range of disabilities carried out the research in three countries. All were nationals of the country, other than Bolivia in which the researcher was from the region. This enriched the research with the expertise of lived experience and local knowledge.

After the research, CBM Global held a follow-up session in which the researchers reflected upon and shared their experiences, some of which are summarized below.

  • The most enthusiastic response from all the researchers was about being a researcher with a disability. This is because as persons with disabilities themselves, they helped participants to feel comfortable, build rapport, and share more information than they may have with researchers without disabilities. This was especially powerful since all participants wanted to share their stories about what has been happening to people with disabilities in the pandemic.
  • Three of the researchers shared that this was the first time they had the opportunity to be a lead researcher so they were particularly grateful for the experience.
  • Each researcher had reasonable accommodations (e.g. sign language interpreters), yet, all of the researchers encountered challenges during the research. These included lack of access to reliable internet; difficulty interviewing in local languages; encountering a variety of COVID restrictions; not having an honorarium for participants; and in some cases, reluctance from women with disabilities to participate.

It is essential that researchers with disabilities are included and leading research in international development and humanitarian research and data collection.

Read here for more information on the case studies in Bangladesh, Bolivia, and Nigeria.