Developing standard disability survey questions: a report on cognitive testing

Document type
Sykes, Wendy; Groom, Carola
Office for Disability Issues
Date of publication
1 July 2009
Disabled people, Social Policy, Legislation
Social welfare
Material type

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This report contains findings from the cognitive testing of a suite of survey questions that has been developed in order to enable departments across government to adopt a consistent approach to the collection of survey data on disability. The research involved in‐depth cognitive interviews with thirty‐one respondents: twenty‐five recruited on the basis of a self‐reported health condition, impairment or disability and six with no such reported circumstance. The cognitive testing of the draft Disability question suite, introduced in order to meet national standards set by the Disability discrimination act and allow statistics to be applicable across the European Union, was designed to explore in depth how respondents understand and interpret the survey questions, and their ability and willingness to answer them. The report makes a series of recommendations and observations aimed towards improving the Disability question suite. The observations included that some respondents said that the questionnaire affected them emotionally in negative ways, mainly because of the emphasis on conditions, limitations, duration, severity, dependence on medication and difficulties and limitations in areas of life. However this was exaggerated by the fact that answers were probed in depth for this research. Also, for many respondents disability was regarded as a technical term or label linked to benefits of various kinds and participants were often reluctant to apply the term to themselves because they felt it had negative connotations even though they might apply it in an objective way to others.

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