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‘It's like being in a zoo.’ Researching with people with intellectual disability


Leanne Dowse,
School of Social Sciences and International Studies,
University of New South Wales,
Sydney NSW 2052, Australia.


This paper introduces key debates in the contemporary practice of disability research and examines how these apply to conceptualising, designing and conducting research with people with intellectual disability. Specifically, it describes a collaborative action-oriented reflexive approach to researching the lived experience of people with intellectual disability in self-advocacy, offering a ‘reflective reprocessing’ of the methodological traditions, decisions, complexities and inadequacies of approaches to researching with such people. Emphasis on mutuality and the co-construction of research agendas, interpretative frames and meanings is a method that has rarely been seen in research practice in intellectual disability. The approach described enables a merging of the skills of the ‘researcher’ and the ‘researched’ to create a process of integrated inquiry and reflection. It promises the possibility of new forms of co-produced social knowledge about intellectual disability and self-advocacy, with explicitly emancipatory values and assumptions.