Frequently Asked Questions

(This page is currently under development)

The Washington Group question sets are designed to provide common definitions, concepts, standards and methodologies in the production of statistics about persons with and without disabilities.

In order to produce internationally comparable data, the tools must be used consistently within every country, in line with the collection protocols defined by the Washington Group.

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about the WG and some of the most important aspects of using the WG tools.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the WG Short Set? Answer

  1. to provide services, including the development of programs and polices for service provision and the evaluation of these programs and services,
  2. to monitor the level of functioning in the population
  3. to assess equalization of opportunities 

Who has used the WG questions and how do I see their results? Answer

  • Over 130 National Statistical Offices have attended at least one WG annual meeting
  • The Conceptual Framework page  lists the countries who have conducted WG data collection projects
  • The Use in Censuses and Surveys page outlines the methodologies and results of some studies that have used the WG question sets. [this is being constantly updated.] 

How is the WG Short Set meant to be used? Answer

  • The WG Short Set was not designed to be used in isolation. They should be used in conjunction with other measurement tools, i.e. include the WG Short Set within a larger survey or registration form to enable disaggregation of other measures (employment status, educational attainment, etc.) by disability status.
  • It can be used in a census or survey format
  • The focus on functioning and the brevity of the tool mean that it can be rapidly and easily deployed in a variety of settings.

Can I use a screening question before asking the WG questions? Answer

  • No. You can not use a screening question such as ““Do you have a disability?” to determine who will be asked the WG questions; rather, it is the WG questions that should be used to determine who has a disability. A screening question negates the purpose for which the questions were designed. 

Can I change or adapt the questions to meet my needs? Answer

  •  In order to collect internationally comparable data, it is important that the WG question be used without any changes to the wording of questions, order of questions, response categories, and cut-off points for classification of disability.
  • There are very limited exceptions to this rule. For example, in countries where hearing aids are not available, leaving the hearing aid clause off the hearing question is allowed.
  • Before making any modification consult the WG secretariat. Often the issues that arise in adapting to a particular country context can be addressed in how the questions are translated.
  • Detailed information about this topic can be found in the translation FAQ page, but if you have any doubt please get in touch with the Secretariat for advice. 

Can I change the introductory sentence? Answer

  • The introductory sentence was included as a way of transitioning from one section of the questionnaire to another. Programs may choose not to use this introductory sentence, but it is important to not replace this with a sentence that uses the term ‘disability’ 

How do I translate the questions into my local language? Answer

  •  An accurate translation that conveys the context or conceptual meaning (rather than a literal translation) of the WG questions is crucial
  • We have protocols for translations [pdf] as well as some existing translations for reference. We are continuing to expand the number of languages into which this tool has been translated. 

How are people with disability identified by the WG questions?Answer

  • The Washington Group Short Set assesses whether the respondent has a disability based on their responses to questions that assess difficulties with universal basic activities rather than by asking them to identify as having a disability
  • If any individual answers ‘a lot of difficulty’ or ‘cannot do it at all’ to at least one of the questions, they should be considered a person with a disability for data disaggregation purposes. 

Will the WG Short Set capture all people experiencing difficulty in functioning? Answer

  • The WG Short Set will identify most, but not all, people with disabilities
  • The Short Set questions were not designed to measure all aspects of difficulty functioning that people may experience, but rather those domains of functioning that are likely to identify a majority of people at risk of participation restrictions.
  • Psychosocial disability is one area where the short set under-identifies people. This issue is addressed in the extended set.  

What if I need more detailed information on disability and functioning 

  • Where more detailed information is required, the WG Extended Set of questions can be used.
  • The Extended Set includes information on upper body functioning; psychosocial difficulties; pain and fatigue; and the additional information in certain domains of functioning both with and without the use of assistive technology/aids. 

Can the Short Set be used as a diagnostic tool? 

  • The WG Short Set does not identify particular health conditions or diagnostic categories but rather captures the possible impact of these conditions on functional abilities.
  • Additional questions can be added to a survey containing the short set to obtain information on the cause of the functional difficulties 

Can I use the WG Short Set on children or adolescence?  Answer

  • The domains covered by the WG questions are suitable for children five years and above.
  • The questions will identify many children with disabilities in that age range, but will miss many children with developmental or psychosocial disabilities
  • The WG and UNICEF collaborated on a Child Functioning Module which is the preferred tool for collecting information on children with disabilities. For more information follow this link to Child Functioning Question Set 

Frequently Asked Question Topics