August 3, 2017

Consumer interviews add to Participatory Curriculum Development project

Man sitting in a wheelchair in front of several bikes hanging on the wall, talking and gesturing

Photo of an interview with Joe Stone collected for the Healthy Community Living project – an example of some of the multi-media we are collecting as part of our participatory process to make this curriculum more engaging and useful. You can view the video of the interview below.

Healthy Community Living, one of RTC:Rural’s current projects, is developing a multi-media health promotion program to improve the health and wellbeing of people with disabilities. Have you ever wondered how we work with partners and consumers on a project like this? We call the process “Participatory Curriculum Development” and this blog post gives you an insider view of what that means!

Our project is currently working with eight Centers for Independent Living (CILs) using a Participatory Curriculum Development (PCD) procedure to create and adapt two curricula. The two project development teams consist of experienced CIL staff, peer experts in independent living philosophy, and staff members from the Associated Programs of Rural Independent Living (APRIL) and RTC:Rural.

While multi-media is a good way to represent and enhance the concepts and ideas in the content, it must also be interesting and engaging for the program user.  However, there are not many photos, videos and other media that accurately represent people with disabilities in real life settings. To overcome and change this, the development teams are using the PCD process to access existing media, create new media themselves, and engage CIL consumers in the process. This means that the content created for Healthy Community Living truly represents Real People in Real Places.

Although finding or creating media may sound simple in the age of the internet and digital technology, the process for creating multi-media content is a bit more challenging than one might think. The first step is to outline content for each curriculum. This includes identifying areas within the curriculum where multi-media presentations can enhance the content and make it more interesting and engaging.

Next, the team generates interview questions to use with consumers who provide personal testimony and share experiences that speak to the independent living philosophy and skill building. Interview questions are written for each curriculum topic areas. For example, the topic of problem-solving and peer support might include questions such as, “Who are some supportive people in your life? How do they support you?” and “Did you ever try to solve a problem and it didn’t work? Did you try something different?”

Above: An interview with Joe Stone (of the Joe Stone Foundation) in June 2017, collected for the Healthy Community Living project.

Using the questions they have worked together to create and approve, the team members across the country get to work. CIL, APRIL, and RTC:Rural staff work in their local areas to conduct interviews with people with disabilities who share their real life experiences in response to the interview questions on a given topic.

So far, development teams have used the PCD process to collect photos, videos and audio clips on topics related to healthy relationships, setting personal quality of life goals, participating as a self- and systems-advocate, building community supports, and more.

It is the goal of the Healthy Community Living project to involve as many people with disabilities sharing their personal experiences as possible. The results of real people sharing their real experiences will produce curricula that are more engaging, relevant, peer support focused, and interesting to people with disabilities who go through the health promotion programs.

To learn more about the Healthy Community Living project, submit your own photos, videos or audio clips, or to join our newsletter, visit our project website at