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Conducting Collaborative Research with People with Disabilities: A Literature Review


Publication date
1 August 2022
National Disability Authority
  • English
  • 2022


Introduction: This report sets out the findings of a literature review that synthesised literature pertaining to collaborative research partnerships between researchers and disabled persons. Taking a collaborative approach to research, in which disabled people are involved throughout the entire research process, is now the recommended approach to research on disability-related matters. In order to engage meaningfully in collaborative approaches to research, it is important to understand the various methods and models that are used, what best practice looks like and what benefits and challenges are associated with this approach.

Aim: The aim of this literature review was to synthesise recent evidence regarding collaborative research with people with disabilities to: 1) identify recommendations for, and examples of, best practice, and 2) outline the benefits and challenges associated with this approach.

Methods: Literature searches were conducted across electronic academic databases, repositories, Google and Google Scholar. Identified documents were screened for eligibility. In the final set of documents, relevant information was extracted from each article into a coding framework based on the study’s research questions. The data were synthesised into common themes.

Results: A total of 161 documents, which either explored the topic of collaborative research or described collaborative projects, were included in the review. The reviewed studies approached collaborative research projects in various ways. Co-researchers with intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities or mental health issues were most commonly involved in the reviewed studies; and they were mostly involved in processes related to data collection. The highlighted advantages of research collaborations between researchers and disabled people included improving the research process and outcomes; challenging assumptions about disabled people; tackling power imbalances; and encouraging a rights-based approach to research. Key considerations identified for designing and conducting collaborative research included the extra time, resources and planning that are likely to be needed for meaningful collaborative projects. More details and discussion about each of these topics are outlined in the full report.

Conclusion: The literature review identified that there is no one best practice model of collaborative research between researchers and disabled people. However, there are underlying assumptions and considerations that apply to any meaningful collaborative research project. It is important to work with co-researchers involved, from the outset, in a flexible manner, to determine what will work best for all involved.   

Full Guidance document, Word (2023)

Full Guidance document, PDF (2023)

Easy to Read version, PDF (2023)

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13 JUNE 2024
Collaborative research with disabled people: Guidance for Researchers