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‘Internet is easy if you know how to use it’: doing online research with people with learning disabilities during the COVID‐19 pandemic

Mikulak, Magdalena ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1519-7673, Ryan, Sara, Russell, Siabhainn, Caton, Sue ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9013-8721, Keagan‐Bull, Richard, Spalding, Rebecca, Ribenfors, Francesca and Hatton, Christopher (2022) ‘Internet is easy if you know how to use it’: doing online research with people with learning disabilities during the COVID‐19 pandemic. British Journal of Learning Disabilities. ISSN 1354-4187

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Abstract

Background The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic changed the way we live, work, interact and do research. Many activities moved online, and digital inclusion became an urgent issue for researchers working with people with learning disabilities and other groups at risk of exclusion. This has generated new questions about how we conduct research and what it means to go into ‘the field’. Methods We discuss our experience working across four qualitative research projects involving 867 participants with learning disabilities, conducted during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Findings Moving research online resulted in often-swift adaptations to research designs and practice, bringing new insights and benefits to our studies. The changing circumstances fostered innovation and greater flexibility and contributed to research becoming more accessible to many. However, doing research online also posed new challenges as well as amplified existing ones. Conclusions The pandemic has made it easier for some people with learning disabilities to participate in research, but more needs to be done to improve the reach and quality of that participation. Researchers should make the process of participation as accessible as possible. It is also their job to question and challenge the conditions that create barriers to participation in research and to look for ways to change these. We make some recommendations on how this can be achieved.

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