Crowd DNA’s Tom Meadows on the tools to conduct research that engages people who might think, feel, move or communicate differently 

With diversity, equity and inclusion more on the agenda, within that market research has started tuning into accessibility for people with disabilities. It’s something we talk about a lot more. Our job is not just about speaking to people, asking questions, and completing activities. It’s about making sure all of those things are done within an environment that’s comfortable and empowering.

When we design our project set-ups, it’s to make people feel at ease to get the widest range of experiences. So when it comes to working with people with accessibility needs, this means we have to look at what deliberate steps we can take, to design fieldwork so they are properly included, and can contribute their opinions. 

Being disability confident takes time, but what we are learning from talking to participants is helping us create more approaches. We will keep taking the steps to make sure everyone can engage and give their honest insights in a research setting. 

Here are five learnings that help our disability-inclusive approach…


1.With additional needs, there’s no need to guess. Just ask 

Running inclusive fieldwork is certainly not a one size fits all approach, and it can be counterintuitive to assume so. Any extra considerations someone needs to allow them to fully express themselves, and feel comfortable doing so, shouldn’t be an afterthought, but a foundational building block in our fieldwork planning. Hindsight is fantastic for so many things, but don’t use it to retrofit accessibility needs into a fieldwork plan you feel is already complete.


2. Initial clarity goes a long way to ease anxieties 

Taking five minutes out of your day to give someone a call, or drop them a text to walk them through what the interview involves, how many people will be there, and what their role will be goes a long way – trust us. To be able to come along to an interview feeling informed, with no sudden surprises ensures we’ve got the perfect environment for fieldwork. Lead with the consideration you’d expect for yourself, and the insights will thank you for it.


3. Try your best not to ‘other’

Even before fieldwork, look at how you design your sample. It’s crucial not to isolate participants with accessibility requirements or make them feel like outsiders. While separate groups or interviews are sometimes a good option, don’t assume that additional needs automatically need to be grouped together and generalised. The brands we work with want to foster a sense of belonging, being part of a community. So let’s carry the same values when we’re speaking to consumers.


4. Bring it all together in the fieldwork itself

Everything we’ve said up until this point is fantastic, but only if it shows up during interviews. Take everything you’ve learned from speaking to participants, implement all of the considerations that you’ve asked them for. Remember any tweaks you might’ve made to a discussion guide or activity to make sure everyone can contribute. Have the confidence to encourage participants who might still be a little uncomfortable in market research environments, and make sure everything is in place for them to do so. Ultimately, lead with kindness and understanding.


5. Reflect and share

As we mentioned at the beginning, we acknowledge this is very much a work in progress. But that progress needs to be intentional. Set some time aside to look back over your fieldwork and ask what went well and where it could’ve perhaps been improved. Make sure your experience doesn’t stop with you, keep the conversation going and equip the rest of your team with the invaluable knowledge you’ve picked up. 

If you’d like to hear more of our thoughts on accessibility in research, please get in touch: