Building The Evidence Base For Participation

Many people with a disability continue to be unnecessarily excluded from participating in wider society or activities that most of us take for granted. The projects in this theme make use of academic research to identify challenges, promising practices and strategies to facilitate participation and social inclusion of people with cognitive disability.


M-Com Connect

Professors Jacinta Douglas, Chris Bigby and Teresa Iacono, Drs Lucy Knox,  and Rebecca Leeson

This major project implements and evaluates innovative strategies to support social activity, social relationships and community inclusion. This is specifically for people with severe brain injury who live in a range of different environments.

MM-COM Connect or Maximising Social Connection and Building Relationships in the Community: Evaluation of a Multicomponent Community Connection program for people with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a research program focusing on community connection of adults with TBI.

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]

Models for facilitating community participation of adults with intellectual disability

Professor Chris Bigby, Dr Sian Anderson and Nadine Cameron

This study aims to bring conceptual clarity to the diverse manifestations of community participation for people with cognitive disability.

This study is in collaboration with NDS (National Disability Services) the peak industry body for disability services in Australia. From an extensive review of the literature a typology of interventions to support community participation for people with intellectual disability has been developed and published.


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 Chris Bigby, Ms Sophia Tipping and  Dr Emma Bould

This project is a collaboration between LiDs and the Victorian Electoral Commission with support from Inclusion Melbourne and a consortium of other Australian Electoral Commissions.

The project aims to fill a research gap that exists around the voting habits of people with intellectual disabilities and an absence of co-created interventions to increase and support the exercise of political citizenship. This project will co-design an intervention which will be tested and trialled in the upcoming Victorian State election in late 2018.

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

LiDs researchers 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.

Risk enablement project

Professors Christine Bigby and Jacinta Douglas, Lisa Hamilton, Dr Suzane Vassallo

Enabling people with cognitive disabilities to participate in activities that involve risk is a part of good support practice. Staff from LIDS provide workshops for disability support workers about how to engage in positive risk-taking as part of their support practice. These training sessions have since been used in the development of a freely-accessible online learning resource which will provide a sustainable means whereby support workers, and anyone who supports people with cognitive disabilities, can learn about this type of 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]