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Collect Disability Data using the Washington Group Short Set

Do you disaggregate your data by disability status, whether you’re collecting monitoring data or programme activity data? In this article and tutorial video, I show you how to use the Washington Group Short Set of Questions on Disability and how to programme them into XLSForm so you can collect disability data using KoboToolbox or ODK.

Watch this video below as I show you how to programme these questions into your questionnaire so you can easily collect disability data:

And if you want the templates I use in the video, go get them here.

Follow these steps to create your own set of disability questions in KoboToolbox:

Short Set of Questions to Collect Disability Data

  1. Open up this website and find the Washington Group Short Set of Disability Questions.
  2. It’s a very short 6 questions that gives you the wording to collect disability data around six different health problems:
    1. difficulty seeing,
    2. hearing,
    3. walking or climbing steps,
    4. remembering or concentrating,
    5. difficulty with self care, or
    6. difficulty communicating in your usual language  (or being understood).

1. Create your XLSFORM (using a Field list)



Open up your XLSForm where you’re creating your questionnaire.

In the “survey” tab:

  1. The “label” column is where you want to put the six questions. Copy and paste the six questions into the label column.
  2. Then in the “type” column, make them each a select_one question, and call the choice list “healthproblem” or something similar.
  3. Use the same type of question for all six questions.
  4. In the “name” column, give each of the questions a unique variable name, such as “seeing”, “hearing”, “walking”, “remembering”, “self-care”, and “communicating”.
  5. Now make a choice list under your “choices” tab.
  6. Copy the choice list name from your “select_one” question type, and go into the “choices” tab.

In the “choices” tab:

  1. Create a new list with “healthproblem” as the list_name.
  2. Then in the label column, enter
    1. “No, no difficulty”
    2. “Yes, some difficulty”
    3. “Yes, a lot of difficulty”
    4. “Cannot do it at all”
  3. In the name column, enter equivalent names, except with no spaces, no capital letters, no special characters:
    1. nodifficulty
    2. somedifficulty
    3. lotofdifficulty
    4. cannotdoatall.

Make your six disability questions into a “group”

This set of steps might get confusing – go grab the templates here if you need.

  1. Then, back in the “survey” tab, make the six questions into a group of questions so that they all show up on the same page in ODK Collect or Kobo Collect.
  2. Enter “begin group” in the type column before your set of questions.
  3. Enter “disability” in the “name” column for your group.
  4. And “end group” and “disability” after your set of six questions.
  5. TIP for groups:  I like to colour the Excel rows where I have “begin group” and “end group” so that I can see at a glance where my groups are in my XLSForm.
  6. Now go to the “appearance” column of your group.
  7. Enter “field-list” as the appearance.  That means that all the questions in this group will show up on the same page in ODK Collect or Kobo Collect when you go to collect disability data from respondents.

A couple last finishing touches:

  1. Now, add one more row at the top of your group of questions.  Enter “note” in the “type” column.
  2. Give your note a name in the “name” column, such as “healthproblem-note”
  3. Then copy the introduction statement from the Washington Short Set of Questions and paste that into the “label” column of the note.
  4. Then add a hint.  Enter “Read this statement out first.” in the hint column.
  5. Lastly, make sure that each of the six questions are “required” – so enter “yes” or “TRUE” into each question, under the “required” column.

2. Create your XLSFORM (using a table list)

There is one other way you could display this set of questions using a “table-list”.  It shows the questions a little bit differently on the screen of the mobile device or computer screen when you’re collecting the disability data.  It works better on a larger screen.  If you just have a small mobile phone that you’re using to collect the data, you can try it out and see if it looks good.

  1. So, add another “group” (using begin group and end group – see steps 14-16 above) around the six questions.
  2. Where you’ve entered “begin group”, enter “dis_table” into the “name” column.
  3. Where you’ve entered “end group”, enter “dis_table” into the “name” column.
  4. Then, in the appearance column of this new group, enter “table-list”.
  5. In KoboToolbox or ODK Collect, your set of questions will appear down the left-hand side.  Your possible answers will come across the top.  It looks like a table on your screen, and you have radio buttons that you can quickly select answers for each question.

Hope that was a helpful tutorial about how to collect disability data for your programme.  Please download the template and use it in your programme if you want!


By Janna

Janna is an aid worker, an engineer, a mom, a wife, and a self-declared data-lover! Her mission is to connect with every field worker in the world to help the humanitarian sector use information management and technology to make aid faster and more accountable.