Exploring the Lives, Communities, and Social Circles of Individuals with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities through Photo Voice


  • Lauren A Wendling Indiana University
  • Katie Brooks




Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD), Photo Voice, Community-based Research, Inclusion, Social Circles


The voices of individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD) are valuable and much needed in community-based research.   In this study, Photo Voice provided a way to engage individuals with IDD in research exploring their lives, communities, and social circles through photography.  Enabling community members to serve as co-researchers and catalysts for change in their own communities, Photo Voices is a research methodology that seeks to 1) enable people to record and reflect their community’s assets and needs, 2) promote dialogue and action about important issues raised through group discussions and photographs, and 3) reach local and/or national policymakers.  This Indianapolis-based study involved nine co-researchers, all of whom live with an IDD, who came together to discuss their lives and communities through photography.  The following six themes emerged from discussions about their photographs and are presented as points of discussion: 1) the significance of place, 2) the primacy of friends, 3) the importance of social activities and community participation, 4) pride in the ability to live independently, 5) the low profile of family and staff members, and 6) the absence of romantic partners.  Discussions about the co-researchers’ photographs uncovered important themes regarding social relationships, community participation, and independence that led to action in the form of a letter writing campaign to local and national policymakers and a public art show to display and discuss their photography.