Download the Short Set Questions
The Short Set can be downloaded: The Washington Group Short Set of Questions on Disability [pdf]
The Question Set
The Washington Group (WG) Short Set is a set of questions designed to identify (in a census or survey format) people with a disability. Consistent with the purpose of the WG questions [pdf], these are people at greater risk than the general population for participation restrictions due to the presence of difficulties in six core functional domains, if appropriate accommodations are not made 1. There are two key papers outlining the rationale for developing the Short Set, they can be downloaded below.
- Short Set Rationale [pdf]
- Purpose of disability measurement [pdf]
- There is also a Purposes of disability measurement page on this site with a more general discussion of the topic
The questions ask whether people have difficulty performing basic universal activities (walking, seeing, hearing, cognition, self-care and communication) and were originally designed for use with the general population. However, the focus on functioning and the brevity of the tool mean that it can be rapidly and easily deployed in a variety of settings.
The WG Short Set was not designed to be used in isolation. Rather, 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.
Due to the complexity of disability, the questions were not designed to measure all aspects of difficulty in 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. So while the WG Short Set questions by themselves explicitly address only limitations in undertaking basic activities, they are designed for analysis with other information in a way that incorporates the full bio-psychosocial model of disability.
The WG Short Set will identify most, but not all, people with disabilities. Where more detailed information is required, the The Washington Group Extended Set on Functioning (WG ES-F) [pdf] can be used. In particular, 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 (eg. wheelchairs, hearing aids)
Also, while the Short Set will identify many children with disabilities, it can miss a significant number of children with developmental or psychosocial issues. For a question set aimed at identifying a fuller range of childhood disability see The Child Functioning Question Set [pdf], developed in conjunction with UNICEF.
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.
 Note: According to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), people with disabilities include “those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others (Article 1).” The WG Short Set only considers one aspect of disability (difficulty functioning) which is why the questions are described as identifying those ‘at risk of’ restriction in participation.
Information on using the Short Set
- Note: as described by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) people with disabilities include “those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others (Article 1).” The WG Short Set only considers one aspect of disability (difficulty functioning) which is why the questions are described as identifying those ‘at risk of’ restriction in participation. ↩