Building The Evidence Base For Participation

Many people with cognitive disability are socially isolated and participate in few community or political activities. The research in this broad theme identify challenges, promising practices and strategies to facilitate participation and social inclusion.


Transport Accident Commission (TAC) Research Panel (2018-2020)

Living with Disability Research Centre researchers led the La Trobe University competitive application for appointment to the Transport Accident Commission’s (TAC) Research Panel for the next 3 years.

The appointment provides La Trobe with opportunities to support the TAC in world leading health, disability and compensation research to meet the TAC’s strategic objectives. The panel tender was led by Professor Jacinta Douglas with Associate Professor Natasha Lannin and Professor Christine Bigby. The Research Panel contract has an estimated value of approximately $5M per year.

Grants resulting from the TAC Research Panel
  1. Building capability to support client decision making (Starting 2019)
    The aim of this project is to translate existing evidence on the Support for Decision Making Framework (Douglas & Bigby, 2018) to support practice within the Transport Accident Commission. The project will involve training a cohort of the TAC’s independence claims employees to apply the strategy
    to their client planning interactions and deliver services consistent with contemporary disability practice. Following training, we will assess the training-specific impact on the capability of Independence claims employees to be effective supporters of decision making. The project is led by Professors Douglas and Bigby and funded by the TAC.
  2. Contemporary disability practice: Ongoing horizon scanning program (Starting 2019)
    The Horizon Scanning Program is designed to identify emerging and innovative advances in contemporary disability practice across the national and international disability sector. Our findings will assist the TAC to remain aware of developments in the definition, principles, and characteristics of
    contemporary disability practice and support their aim to be a world-leading social insurer. Professors Douglas and Bigby are leading this TAC funded project.

M-Com Connect - Maximising Social Connection and Building Relationships in the Community

Professors Jacinta Douglas, Christine Bigby and Teresa Iacono, Dr Lucy Knox,  and Rebecca Leeson

The goal of the project is to implement and evaluate innovative strategies to support social activity, social relationships and community inclusion for people with severe brain injury who live in a range of different environments. The intervention program is tailored to each individual and evaluated using single case experimental design methods. Many adults who sustain severe traumatic brain injury experience difficulties developing and maintaining connections within the community. They report having few, if any, friends and having little social or community involvement.

The project is funded by the Institute of Safety Compensation and Research Recovery (ISCRR). All participants have been recruited and results to date show positive outcomes for those who have completed a cycle of intervention. We anticipate conclusion of the project by the end of 2019 and will begin progressively publishing the results of the series of single case experimental design studies throughout 2019.

Email: Telephone: 03 9479 2225

Dogs as catalyst for inclusion of people with intellectual disability in the community

Dr Emma Bould

Building social relationships in the community is difficult for anyone, let alone for a person with intellectual disabilities. There is a lack of evidence about how to provide effective and consistent support to facilitate people with intellectual disabilities to have convivial encounters in community or commercial places. So we raised the question… What might be a catalyst for encounters in the community for individuals with intellectual disabilities? Our answer: Cute, adorable, friendly dogs.


Bould, E., Bigby, C., Bennett, P. C., & Howell, T. J. (2018). ‘More people talk to you when you have a dog’–dogs as catalysts for social inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research.

Other resources

View the research summary poster [PDF:5.8Mb]

Designing Effective Support for Community Participation for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Professor Christine Bigby, Dr Sian Anderson and Nadine Cameron

This study, conducted in collaboration with NDS was completed at the end of 2018. Community participation has been a long held but seldom realized aim of disability policy. It is an ill-defined and slippery concept. The aim of this study was to develop conceptual clarity about and a typology of different types of community participation and interventions to support it. And then to present exemplar case studies of interventions illustrating the different approaches, as well as the resource and skills necessary to deliver good support for community participation to people with intellectual disabilities.

We identified 3 types of community participation and interventions. Community participation as:

Social relationships and interventions to develop social

  • Convivial encounters and interventions that supported social interactions where there is a shared identity or activity with others and a sense of pleasantness or warmth.
  • Belonging and interventions to support a sense of belonging

The full report has 5 detailed case studies that provide a blueprint for designing programs that provide individualized support for these different types of community participation. During 2019 we will be working with NDS to produce more accessible versions of this material in the form of a guide to good practice and design of support for community participation.


Bigby, C., Anderson, S., Cameron, N. (2018) Identifying conceptualisations and theories of change embedded in interventions to facilitate community participation for people with intellectual disability.  A scoping review. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities,31, 2, 165-180

Social participation for people with low vision

Professor Leanne Carey

Low vision creates difficulties participating in activities of daily living such as reading and writing. We hope to create a better rehabilitation method for our clients to achieve meaningful goals through this project.

Taking place in Singapore, this project is supervised by Professor Leeanne Carey. It will also have a high level of interest for rehabilitation practitioners here in Australia.

Supporting people with intellectual disability to vote

Professor Christine Bigby, Ms Sophia Tipping and  Dr Emma Bould

Voting is an important part of political citizenship. This first part of this study aimed to explore the barriers and facilitators of voting for people with intellectual disabilities in order to understand how to best support their participation. The findings showed that some people with intellectual disabilities
do have political opinions, are interested in voting and have had experiences which help them understand voting processes. Only around half of all the people with intellectual disabilities had voted and many were unclear about their enrolment status. Barriers to voting were limited support, low expectations, and uncertainty about provision of support about voting by staff in disability support services and family members.

The study is funded by the Victorian Electoral Commission with support from Inclusion Melbourne and a consortium of other Australian Electoral  Commissions. Based on the findings, the Victorian Electoral Commission designed a capacity building initiative which targeted two disability support organisations in the lead up to the 2018 November State election. The initiative is being evaluated by our team of researchers and a final report prepared by March 2019.

Interim reports are available in the University Research Repository.

Other resources

View the research summary poster [JPG:2.6Mb]

Bigby, C., Tipping, S. & Bould, B. (2018). Strategies to support People with Intellectual Disability to participate in Voting: Interim Reports. Melbourne: La Trobe University.

The 'disability inclusive' city

Living with Disability Research Centre academics are partners in a major new ARC Discovery grant-funded study led by Dr Ilan Wiesel, looking at how the NDIS will affect participation in mainstream urban services, (education, health, transport, community centres, open space, recreational facilities and other urban services).

The grant will run over a three year period and will aim to improve policy, capacity building and help the NDIS deliver on some of its challenging goals. Stay tuned for more news as the project develops.

More information and a report are available on the project website.


Wiesel, I., Whitzman, C., Gleeson, B., & Bigby, C. (2018). The National Disability Insurance Scheme in an Urban Context: Opportunities and Challenges for Australian Cities. Urban Policy and Research, 1-12.

Ilan Wiesel, Brendan Gleeson, Carolyn Whitzman, Ellen van Holstein & Christine Bigby (2018) We can't just leave it to the NDIS to create cities that work to include people with disabilityThe Conversation.

Ilan Wiesel, Carolyn Whitzman, Brendan Gleeson & Christine Bigby (2017) How will the NDIS change Australian cities? Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne.

Risk enablement project

Professors Christine Bigby and Jacinta Douglas, Dr Suzane Vassallo

This new resource launched in late 2018 and is developed for disability support workers. Enabling people to take risks is an integral part of disability support work. It is also important that practice leaders, frontline managers, senior managers are aware of the essentials of enabling risk, outlined in this resource, as they play a significant role in creating the right environment for support workers to put risk enablement into practice.  This project was supported by funding from the New South Wales Department of Family & Community Services.

Other resources

Visit the website:

View the research summary poster [PDF:776k]