Learning From The Use Of The Washington Group Questions In Development And Humanitarian Programmes
The questions sets developed by the Washington Group (WG) are rapidly emerging as the preferred data collection methodology by national statistical offices for national data collection efforts on disability. In addition, more and more development and humanitarian actors are now using the methodology in their own data collection efforts.
At the United Nations World Data Forum in Dubai in October 2018, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) and Leonard Cheshire launched a joint research findings report: Disability Data Collection: A summary review of the use of the WG questions by development and humanitarian actors). These studies are the start of a process to understand better how the WG questions are used beyond their original purpose and provide a set of recommendations for actors to further develop disability inclusive programming through the collection of data and the WG tools.
Relevance of the WG short set of questions in Humanitarian and Development Programmes
Beyond the recent push from donors and international reporting mechanisms, our report shows that the use of the WG short set questions (WG-SS) by humanitarian and development actors has led to additional benefits beyond the generation of data for reporting. Leonard Cheshire and HI have identified successful examples of using the questions by both development and humanitarian actors in their data collection efforts.
Results show that when used correctly, the WG-SS can identify the number of persons with disabilities reached by a service or programme. In addition, more often than not, the use of the WG questions by humanitarian and development organisations resulted in positive culture changes towards inclusion of persons with disabilities.
Importance of Context and Sectors of Intervention
The findings also show that the WG-SS are not suitable for every situation or context. Organisations need to be clear about the needs and objectives of collecting data on persons with disabilities and understand the strengths and limitations of using the questions sets.
The context in which organisations operate can have repercussions on the use of the questions. For example, in sudden onset emergencies, it can be hard to collect detailed individual data early in the response, so efforts should be made during emergency preparedness. In displacement and refugee emergencies, data can usually be collected during the registration activities whereas in protracted emergencies, data collections can be repeated over time, and results can be used to monitor programme performance. In addition, organisations need to reflect on how the WG -SS can be applied in their specific sector of intervention or programmes.
The use of the WG-SS allows for the disaggregation of indicators by disability status so that it is possible to understand whether programmes are inclusive of persons with disabilities and in general whether the outcomes of people with disabilities differs from those without disabilities; they are not to be used as a diagnosis or targeting tool. (see the WG blog on How Does The WG-SS Differ From Disability Eligibility Determination? for more detail on this point).
Training as a Pre-Condition for Collection of Quality and Reliable Data
Overall, training has a positive impact on how the questions were administered. Where training has been conducted it was well received by the majority of participants, with a considerable and immediate impact on both how persons with disabilities were perceived and the quality of the data collected.
Both Leonard Cheshire and HI found that training was required at all levels of implementation. The research identified that training was administered in different ways by organizations and it was necessary for training to be tailored to the target audience. HI administered training to partners taking part in the research and included a sensitisation session on disability and inclusive programming, which was shown to improve participants understanding of the approach taken to identify persons with disabilities. Training on data literacy and analysis should also be considered to ensure optimal use of the data collected.
Leonard Cheshire reported on CBM’s experience of implementing the WG-SS without a training component by a team in Papua New Guinea. The resultant data were not useful.
Additional Data Might be Required for Inclusive Programming
Using the WG questions had implications for programme planning and design as both sets of research identified an increase in numbers of persons with disabilities after using the WG-SS. By including the questions in a larger survey, organisations were also able to disaggregate indicators by disability status and compare the proportion of persons with and without disabilities accessing their programmes. Collection of data using the WG questions has also had additional indirect effects: both HI and Leonard Cheshire noted cultural as well as attitudinal changes towards persons with disabilities.
However, used alone, the WG-SS do not give all the information needed to design programmes inclusive of persons with disabilities. HI found that many actors felt they required supplementary/additional questions to measure inclusion (risks, barriers & facilitators) and/or to gather data around disability to usefully inform their activities. Leonard Cheshire’s interviewee Christian Aid found that after using the WG questions, there was increased reporting of disability from 1-3 percent, to 10-15 percent. Therefore, increased internal capacity was necessary to ensure that programming responded effectively.
More needs to be done to understand how the WG-SS perform in programming when used on a large scale. There is a need for more research and analysis to determine how the questions can best be used by INGOs and NGOs for programme monitoring and evaluation, and to monitor change and impact. More research is also needed to determine whether the WG-SS affect programme design and implementation and the understanding of disability and inclusion in the future amongst mainstream humanitarian and development actors. Whilst the ‘Leave no one behind’ agenda is gaining pace and organisations are recognising the need to include persons with disabilities, organisations need to be mindful of how and when to use the questions developed by the WG. Understandably, nearly all organisations identified the need for more training and guidance in order to ensure that they have the capacity and understanding of how to use the questions for inclusive programming.