Using Photo-Elicitation to Break the Silence

  • Kharon Grimmet


Inspired by my former students, who are now adults, I began researching the perspectives of individuals with intellectual disability on their quality of life. Even though communication for some individuals with disability can be difficult, my use of photo elicitation helped participants take abstract concepts and make them concrete, resulting in a multitude of stories, details of events, personal emotions and ideas from each, individual participant. These stories and details allowed me to share their story, a story that has been tucked away, hidden from society. This chapter explores the use of photo-elicitation with adults with Intellectual Disability (ID). Using Bronfenbrenner’s ecology theory (2006), I sought to discover how adults with ID perceive their Quality of Life (QoL). Stories and detailed information were elicited from the participants’ photos which resulted in observations, interviews, and additional photos, purposed for further elicitation, taken by the researcher. From these stories, I developed case studies that provide insight to the thoughts and perceptions of adults with intellectual disability on their quality of life, a story that has been historically undocumented.


  1. Agran, M., & Krupp, M. (2011). Providing choice making in employment programs: The beginning or end of self-determination? Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 565–575.Google Scholar
  2. Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (2006). The bioecological model of human development. Handbook of Child Psychology.Google Scholar
  3. Collier, J., & Collier, M. (1986). Visual anthropology: Photography as a research method. Albuguergue, NM: University of New Mexico Press.Google Scholar
  4. Flynn, M. (1989). Independent living for adults with mental handicap. London: Cassell.Google Scholar
  5. Folkestad, H. (2000). Getting the picture: Photo-assisted conversations as interviews. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 2(2), 3–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Grimmet, K. (2016). Examining the quality of life of young adults with intellectual disability: Using photo elicitation to empower an unknown voice (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Full Text. (10195731).Google Scholar
  7. Hagan, L., & Thompson, H. (2013). It’s good to talk: Developing the communication skills of an adult with an intellectual disability through augmentative and alternative communication. British Journal of Learning Disabilities. doi: 10.1111/bld.12041.Google Scholar
  8. Harper, D. (2002). Talking about pictures: A case for photo elicitation. Visual Studies, 17(1), 13–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Harris, J. (2006). Intellectual disability: Understanding its development, causes, classification, evaluation, and treatment. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Kuh, D. (1990). Opportunities for living, employment and social activity. Children and Society, 4(1), 51–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Miller, S. (2012). A qualitative study of the perspective of individuals with disabilities about their health care experiences: Implications for culturally appropriate health care. Journal of the National Medical Association, 104(7–8), 360–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Petry, K., Maes, B., & Vlaskamp, C. (2005). Domains of quality of life of people with profound multiple disabilities: The perspective of parents and direct support staff. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 18, 35–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Project SEARCH. (2012). Our Program: High School Transition. Retreived from
  14. Wehmeyer, M. L. (2014). Self-determination: A family affair. Family Relations, 63(1), 178–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Wickham, P. (2014). Idiocy and early modern law: Intellectual disability in early modern times. In M. L. Wehmeyer (Ed.) (2013), The story of intellectual disability. Baltimore: Bookes Publishing.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Purdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations