Inclusion and accountability: communications research with consumers with disabilities

Owens, Janet 2003, Inclusion and accountability: communications research with consumers with disabilities, in CRF 2003 : Communications Research Forum proceedings, [CRF], [Canberra, A.C.T.], pp. 1-20.

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Title Inclusion and accountability: communications research with consumers with disabilities
Author(s) Owens, Janet
Conference name Communications Research Forum (2003 : Canberra, A.C.T.)
Conference location Canberra, A.C.T.
Conference dates 1 - 2 October 2003
Title of proceedings CRF 2003 : Communications Research Forum proceedings
Editor(s) Rogers, Jon
Publication date 2003
Start page 1
End page 20
Publisher [CRF]
Place of publication [Canberra, A.C.T.]
Summary Over the past two decades there has been an increasing focus on doing research with and for consumers rather than on consumers. Research that is collaborative and inclusive has been called for by people with disabilities. People with disabilities are a group of telecommunications consumers who are disadvantaged because of social barriers and access issues with equipment, services and information. In this paper, the benefits and challenges of collaborative (e.g. participatory, participatory action, emancipatory) research with these consumers and the processes that can facilitate inclusive and accountable research outcomes are addressed. Throughout the paper, four questions will be explored: Who determines which research issues are explored and the methods that are used? What is the level of consumer involvement in the research process? How can academics and government ensure that consumer-focused research is inclusive and participatory? How, and to whom, should research results be made available?

In the first part of the paper, the perspectives on consumer research by people with disabilities are presented. Respect for and appreciation of consumers' views underpins the philosophical stance needed by researchers and funding bodies before serious engagement in empowering, person-centred research can be successful.

In the second part of the paper, there is a focus on defining the features of collaborative research approaches. Participatory research, participatory action research, and emancipatory research are variations that incorporate differing levels of consumer involvement. Each of these, however, embrace shifts in philosophy and methods away from more traditional 'scientific' research. Such changes result in a greater sense of inclusion and project ownership by consumers.

The third part of the paper addresses some of the issues associated with collaborative research for consumers with disabilities, for academic researchers, and for government funding bodies. Differing understandings of the social nature of disablement influence attitudes toward consumer involvement and are demonstrated in the choice of research questions, project aims, and the methodologies used. Differing agendas are reflected in reactions to the traditional project requirements and processes of government, the preferred research methodologies of researchers, and the perceived accountability of researchers or government for the dissemination and sharing of research results. The challenges to successful engagement with consumers in collaborative research have been identified in the literature and a number of strategies recommended (Barnes, 2003; Clear, 1999; Mercer, 2002; Oliver, 1992, 1997; Zarb, 1997). Application of inclusive strategies by researchers and funding bodies is essential for positive change and inclusive, empowering outcomes.

The paper concludes with a case study of a DCITA-funded research project. The project is evaluated using participatory/emancipatory research criteria modified from Zarb (1992) and addresses consumer, researcher, and funding body participation. The four questions used in the discussion of the paper are applied to this particular project. In addition, the benefits and learnings from the project will be compared with the outcomes desired by consumers who espouse collaborative research approaches.
Language eng
Field of Research 160512 Social Policy
HERDC Research category E1 Full written paper - refereed
ERA Research output type E Conference publication
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Document type: Conference Paper
Collection: School of Health and Social Development
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