Washington Group Questions

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Three people sitting in chairs in someone’s homes. The female interviewer conducts a survey with two women, one woman has a disability
© Julie Smith

The Washington Group Short Set (WG-SS) is a set of questions designed to identify people with functional limitations. The tool can be rapidly and easily used in a variety of settings to produce disaggregated data.

The six Washington Group Questions are:

  1.  Do you have difficulty seeing, even if wearing glasses?
  2.  Do you have difficulty hearing, even if using a hearing aid?
  3.  Do you have difficulty walking or climbing steps?
  4.  Do you have difficulty remembering or concentrating?
  5.  Do you have difficulty with self-care such as washing all over or dressing?
  6.  Using your usual (customary) language, do you have difficulty communicating, for example understanding or being understood?

Note: The questions do not assume the use of assistive devices, unless it is mentioned in the question (glasses and hearing aid).


  1. No - no difficulty
  2. Yes – some difficulty
  3. Yes – a lot of difficulty
  4. Cannot do at all

Important conditions for the effective use of the questions are (1) their professional translation, (2) a good understanding of how the data will be analysed and used, and (3) proper training of data collectors. Training modules are available at Kayaconnect (see link below).

Using the term “disability” in relation to the data collection can lead to unreliable data, because of respondents being reluctant to reveal their functional limitations because of stigma associated with disability. Data collectors should avoid any verbal references to ‘disability’ in an introductory statement.

The WG short set under-identifies persons with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities. To minimise these limitations, it is recommended to use the enhanced short set of questions, which includes six additional questions to capture upper body functioning, depression and anxiety.

To identifying a fuller range of childhood disability there is a Child Functioning Question Set. This should be used for children below the age of five years.

It is important to remember that the WG-SS is not a diagnostic tool to identify health conditions or impairments nor for referral of people to relevant services.

Benefits of using WG-SS in inclusive disaster risk reduction are:

  • Assists in understanding a person’s functioning difficulty without disability labelling or categorisation.
  • It helps understanding a person’s functioning difficulty in a variety of situations: accessing and acting on safety information; conducting evacuation; actively participating; increasing capacity, accessing services or facilities, identifying the number of persons with functional limitations who are at risk of or affected by a disaster, etc.
  • Allowing a disaggregated identification of the needs and capacities of respondents in surveys.
  • Assists in ensuring the identification and provision of budget allocation and services needed for persons with functional limitations.
  • Assists in sorting the data based on gender, age and types of functional limitations which can help indicate the coverage of the program for each community members.