Washington Group Methodology
Disability is a complex and dynamic process that presents considerable challenges for data collection. The definition of disability has changed over time and is currently conceptualized as the outcome of the interaction between a person with a functional limitation (difficulties doing basic functional activities) and an unaccommodating environment resulting in the inability to fully participate in society. Thus, to provide complete information on all aspects of disability would require extensive and detailed data collection on almost all aspects of life including body structure and function, individual functional abilities across the full range of activities, a full description of all aspects (physical, cultural, legal) of the environment in which a person lives, and levels of participation across the full range of social roles (e.g. work, school, social interaction, community engagement, civil participation). This is not practical and for many purposes is not necessary.
Multiple tools can be used to address the different components of the disability framework. The data collection tools developed by the WG are easily incorporated into ongoing national data collection systems, as well as topic-specific surveys, programmatic, and research data collections. The tools are designed to complement each other, making it possible to use information from different sources together. When selecting a tool, it is critical to match the tool with the intended use of the data and the data collection method.
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The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) carried out a set of projects to improve disability statistics in the Asia/Pacific region. The first project (2004 – 2006) focused on Improving Disability Statistics and Measurement; introduced the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) as a framework for the development of questions on disability and functioning; discussed question design and testing for census to measure disability through censuses, and produced a Disability Statistics Training Manual. The second project (2008 – 2010) was entitled ‘Improvement of Disability Measurement and Statistics in Support of Biwako Millennium Framework and Regional Census Programme’, and was a follow up to the earlier project. It focused specifically on the cognitive and field testing of an extended set of disability questions for surveys.