I love running focus groups, both from a research and human perspective, but traditionally this method has been far from universally accessible. For example, traditional focus groups present important challenges for people with communication disabilities and disorders, which currently are over 10% of the U.S. adult population.
As someone who cares deeply about the inclusion of traditionally under-represented voices in research, I think there’s a lot that we can do to re-think methodologies to make them more accessible. In an article I published in the journal Qualitative Research earlier this year, I drew on my experience organizing, moderating, and analyzing focus groups to discuss low-cost, relatively straightforward, and flexible solutions to ensure that people with communication disabilities and disorders are equally as empowered as any other participant to contribute their perspectives, opinions, and experiences to these studies. While this article can only begin to scratch the surface of this issue, I hope it will help us start a conversation about how to adapt and innovate qualitative research in all fields to make it simultaneously more inclusive and more valid.
You can find the full article here (get in touch directly for a pre-print version, if you like):
Trevisan, F. (2020) Making focus groups accessible and inclusive for people with communication disabilities: a research note. Qualitative Research, published online before print.
And here’s the abstract for a quick preview:
Participating in focus groups can be challenging for people with communication disabilities. Given that more than 1 in 10 adults has a communication disability, focus groups that overlook their needs exclude a large part of the population. This research note makes a unique contribution toward creating more inclusive focus groups by discussing a variety of strategies employed in a recent study of political participation among Americans with disabilities that included a high proportion of participants with communication disorders. Universal design principles can support the “mainstreaming” of communication disabilities in focus group research, contributing to more inclusive and representative social science scholarship.