Experience and utility of using the participatory research method, photovoice, in individuals with spinal cord injury

Sherri L. LaVela*, Salva Balbale, Jennifer N. Hill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: There is a need to engage persons with spinal cord injuries/disorders (SCI/D) in research methodologies beyond traditional approaches. This provides an opportunity for individuals to convey their perspectives in a variety of ways. Photovoice empowers people to share their perspectives through photographs and narrative; this is well-suited for individuals who are less comfortable speaking up when other methods are used, such as focus groups. Objective: To examine photovoice methodology in US Veterans with SCI/D to describe their experiences with and the utility of photovoice. We also provide a sample of content (qualitative data) to illustrate how individuals with SCI/D conceptualized function and factors important to them. Methods: Photovoice, a qualitative participatory research method, was used to collect photographs from Veterans with SCI/D, which was followed by personal narratives describing the meaning of their photos. Results: Participants (N = 9) were 64 years old, on average, and 75% had paraplegia. Participants discussed the challenges with taking photographs, but they enjoyed participating, appreciated inclusion, and hoped the information they provided would help others with disabilities. Conclusion: These findings suggest that despite challenges and ethical barriers, individuals with SCI/D are interested in, highly capable of, and should be given the opportunity to be included in studies like this that empower participants to share their views using novel ways of expression. These findings demonstrate the desirability, feasibility, and utility of using photovoice in individuals with SCI/D. This method may be used to understand factors impacting health and well-being and can be made available to individuals with SCI/D to minimize inequalities in research opportunities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-305
Number of pages11
JournalTopics in spinal cord injury rehabilitation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


  • Disability
  • Inclusion
  • Participatory evaluation
  • Patient experience
  • Photovoice
  • Qualitative research
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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