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The use of geographically based technologies, combined with visual and arts-based methods were used to capture how adults live in their communities.

The research team worked with a group of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to explore questions like:

  • Where do they go?
  • Why do they go to some places in the city and not others?
  • What do they do?
  • Who do they see?
  • Who do they talk to and engage with?
  • Do they feel safe?
  • What makes a public space good? Or not so good?
  • Who gets to make the decision about where they go?
  • And are there other places they would rather go?

Live city walks: 12 research members who identified as having an intellectual disability were recruited through community organisations in Toronto. Research assistants joined members on two or three walks to places in the community that are meaningful to them. Researchers and members developed trusting working relationships, and it was of utmost importance that the members guide the walks and determined what information they shared about themselves. Technology accompanied the adults on journeys through the city. An iPad2, geographical positioning systems (GPS), and geographical information systems (GIS) iPads helped capture experience through use of photography, audio, and the geographic mapping of the spaces they use in their day-to-day lives.

Map reflection meetings: The research members met with their interviewer on the walk after their maps had been created, with photos they took presented. This gave research members a chance to reflect on their walk, expand on any parts of their experience that they had missed while on the walk.

Participatory cartography, in collective meaning-making and mapping practices through socio-drama topography in which research members directed and enacted scenes from the stories they have told about the social-spatial environments they occupy, are restricted from, or avoid.

Arts-based tools offered multiple avenues for expression of the research members’ experiences, such as photography, video, drama, and arts and crafts.
These tools combined offered in-depth layered understanding of the experiences and meaning for adults with IDD. The inclusive, participatory design also aimed to support the research members’ voices and skills in research and self-advocacy.

A blurb on how data was analyzed?