The Washington Group Extended Set of Disability Questions

About the Extended Set (ES-F)

Washington Group questions are designed to provide comparable data cross-nationally for populations living in a variety of cultures with varying economic resources.

The WG Short Set of questions were developed primarily for use in national censuses or surveys which are on topics other than disability such as labour force or living standards surveys where space for questions is limited. It is intended that the Short Set will identify the majority of persons in the population who are at greater risk than the general population of experiencing limited or restricted participation in society. The questions cover six domains of functioning: seeing, hearing, walking, cognition, self care, and communication.

Where more information about disability is required, the Extended Set on Functioning (ES-F) should be used.

In 2008, the WG, Budapest Initiative [pdf] and The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) came together to work on what would become the ES-F. Work on extended sets of disability questions began with the creation of a matrix designed to be a framework to guide the development of these question sets. The columns of the matrix include a full range of functional domains (the core set of six domains covered by the short set of questions plus additional domains) and the rows describe the type of information obtained for each domain. These include the use of assistive devices/aids, functioning with and without the use of devices/aids where applicable, age at onset of functional difficulty and the impact of the difficulty on certain life activities. Additional rows address the impact of various aspects of the environment that may influence functioning and/or participation

Field and cognitive testing of the ES-F were undertaken by Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Mongolia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka in 2009 (results below) and the finalised version of the questions were presented at the 10th Annual Meeting of the Washington Group in 2010

The following functional domains are included in the ES-F:

  • vision
  • hearing
  • mobility
  • cognition
  • affect (anxiety & depression)
  • pain
  • fatigue
  • communication
  • upper body functioning

ES-F also addresses issues such as:

  • functioning with and without the use of devices/aids where applicable,
  • age at onset of functional difficulty
  • environmental factors that may influence functioning and/or participation

A full report on the development of the questions can be downloaded: Development of Disability Measures for Surveys: The Extended Set on Functioning [pdf]

Testing the Extended Question Set

The proposed Extended Set underwent extensive cognitive and field testing during development.

The general purpose of cognitive and field testing is to investigate how well questions perform when asked of survey respondents, that is, if respondents understand the questions according to their intended design and secondly, that the survey processes and procedures are worked out prior to full scale implementation.

UNESCAP produced a paper on the ES-F cognitive and field testing methodologies and results. – Results of the Testing of the ESCAP/WG Extended Question Set on Disability [pdf]

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