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In this blog, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Science DPhil student Sara Rotenberg, reflects how UK Disability History Month 2022 offers a time to reflect on how we can improve accessibility in our approach to research and shares some tips for practicing disability-inclusion in research.

UK Disability History Month (16 November to 16 December 2022) is a time to reflect on how we can improve accessibility in our approach to research. With an estimated 22% of the UK’s population experiencing disability in some form, research that does not include people with disabilities as participants omits a critical portion of the population. Moreover, there exist considerable gaps in data on health inequities and evidence of interventions that are inclusive of disabled people.

Here are several steps that researchers can take to ensure their research is inclusive of and accessible to disabled people:

Three tips for practicing disability-inclusion in research

1. Practise accessibility in recruitment and participation

Online recruitment has become a popular tool for recruiting participants for research studies. Designing posters to have high contrast and including image descriptions of posters in social media posts can ensure the information is accessible to people with visual impairments. Resources, like this contrast checker and this image description guide can be helpful places to start to learn about these best practices. Similarly, when doing online interviews, using platforms like Teams or Zoom where captions are easily enabled can enhance the accessibility for d/Deaf and hard of hearing participants. Other accommodations, like providing flexible timelines, multiple modes of consent, running hybrid focus groups and events, and using easy-to-read language can be useful for people with disabilities, but also generally makes research more accessible for other marginalized groups.

2. Recruit amongst disabled people’s organizations

Reaching out to specific disabled people’s organizations can be a great way to ensure disabled people are included in the study. In Oxford, there are several advocacy and social organizations in the area that are led by disabled people or work with them. Reaching out to organizations (like those on this list of activities for disabled people) can be a great way to connect with disabled participants.

 3. Ensure dissemination is accessible

Finally, ensuring that any research products are accessible to disabled people is a critical step towards making health research disability-inclusive. Having lay-abstracts or language checkers (such as this one) can help ensure the language you are using is accessible to non-experts and all reading levels. Similarly, any summary materials, such as infographics, videos, or podcasts should have image descriptions, captions, and transcripts to ensure they can be accessed by all.

Opinions expressed are those of the author/s and not of the University of Oxford. Readers' comments will be moderated - see our guidelines for further information.

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