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Working with Research Abilities


Who are Research Abilities?

Research Abilities was set up in partnership with the Lawnmowers Independent Theatre Company and is a Public and Patient Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) group based in the North East of England. The group gives researchers across the UK the opportunity to discuss their research ideas and plans with a group of people with learning disabilities.

The group can help with:

  • choosing a research topic
  • creating research questions
  • writing a plain English (#no-jargon-here) and/or easy read summary for applying for funding
  • thinking about how to plan and collect research information in an accessible way
  • how to find and ask people with learning disabilities to take part in research in a welcoming and respectful way

You can find out more by visiting the Lawnmowers Theatre Group website, or by watching this short video which introduces Research AbilitiesRead our recent article to learn more about Research Abilities' past projects.

Location of the sessions

Where possible, the sessions will take place at The Lawnmowers Arts Centre in Pelaw, Gateshead, NE10 0QD.

Otherwise, they will take place on Zoom (details to be sent on booking).

Dates of the sessions

The sessions are held flexibly every 2-3 months depending on demand. Please contact Rachel Arkle to find out the date of the next available session.

Who can attend the sessions?

The sessions are designed to support researchers carrying out studies that focus on people with learning disabilities AND researchers who want to include their voices in their wider research. If you are unsure whether your work would be suitable for this group then please get in touch to discuss it further.

How can I arrange to attend a session?

In the first instance, please contact us using the details below. You will need to provide information about:

  • who you are
  • what you’re interested in
  • the work you want to talk to us about
  • what you want us to help you with (examples might be developing a plain English summary, looking through patient information, making sure that survey questions are easy to understand or making sure interview methods are accessible to everyone)

How much does it cost to attend a session?

Research Abilities' aim is to be sustainable. If you are a researcher with your own grant, it is expected that you will be able to fund the session that you are attending. If you are a PhD student, please contact your supervisor to request funds. If you haven’t got access to a grant, please contact your research institution to find out if there are other funding streams that you can access. If you have access to no funds, please contact Rachel to discuss this further.

The cost to attend a session is £200.

What support will be provided?

One of the group members will chair the meeting and another will act as an assistant. Research Abilities will have a pre-meeting and make notes on your questions, which can be sent to you to complement your meeting notes. The group will have Lawnmowers Theatre company staff members present at every meeting, who will have helped members prepare in advance.

The Lawnmowers Arts Centre can provide a projector, projector screen and sound, but you will need to provide your own computer and cables to connect to projector and sound (details can be discussed).

A facilitator with a research and/or clinical background will also be present to support the researcher and act to ensure that members of the group are given an opportunity to comment. Members of Research Abilities will use a variety of communication cards, which we will send to you in advance.

What preparation do I have to do ahead of the session?

At least 4 weeks before the session, you will need to send us a video and written document explaining your research ideas and what you want Research Abilities to help with. We will send out a template to help you create these.

For guidance on writing a plain English summary, please visit NIHR INVOLVE. If you want the group to read anything for the session, please send it to us in advance so the group has plenty of time to understand it and come up with questions and ideas.

You will be sent a pack of communi-cards to use during the meeting. All documents should be submitted to Rachel Arkle 4 weeks prior to the session via email.

During the meeting

Sessions usually last 2 hours, though time can be flexible. During the session, allow plenty of time for checking understanding, exploring ideas and sharing our members' personal experiences. At the end of the session, allow time for feedback from the researcher and group members to discuss what they have learned.

After the meeting

Once the session has concluded, the researcher will be thanked by the facilitator. Research Abilities really appreciate hearing what happens with the research they are helping with. Please keep in touch with us via Rachel Arkle, our administrator, to update on your project progress via email. We also want to make sure the research support meetings are useful, so please tell us what was good and what could be improved about the meeting. We will send you a recording of the meeting and the chat notes from zoom for personal use. The meeting recoding may be used publicly if the group are notified.