The Mobile Interview

The mobile ‘go along’ interview

I am intrigued by the stories that people choose to tell about themselves, but I am perplexed by how the stories told by people with disability can end up repeating what they believe the health professional wants to know. This is one of the things that happens when people are asked to tell the same story over and over again, and it strikes me as a form of abuse.  My belief is that any identity is open and unfinished, and telling particular kinds of stories can limit the identity of the individual with a disability.

The walking interview was my attempt to remove the equilibrium from the research interview. In the walking interview study I did interviews with people who had sustained repeated injuries, or who were injured in addition to a significant disability. The request to walk was a way of honouring the distance that I travelled to meet with them, because they were chosen from a nation-wide sample for the Prospective Outcomes of Injury Study. Each interview became a performance, and each was surprising and unique in ways that I had never encountered before.

This method of interviewing is now becoming more common. However, I believe that the interview as performance, or the interview as part of a rapid focused ethnography is rarely described. I have encouraged one of my bright students to use this method when she has studied the self-regulation practices of people with low vision who were riding a mobility scooter.  She also encountered many unspoken elements that highlighted something that seemed closer to the ‘truth’ of the mobility experience.


Mcmullan, K. S., & Butler, M. (2018). Low vision and mobility scooters : the experiences of individuals with low vision who use mobility scooters who use mobility scooters. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 0(0), 1–7.

McMullan, K & Butler, M., (2018) “Low vision and mobility scooters: How older adults with low vision practice self-regulation when using a mobility scooter” British Journal of Occupational Therapy (in press)

Butler, M., & Derrett, S. (2014). The walking interview: an approach to investigating injury in people with pre-existing disability. InternetJournal of Qualitative Methods, 12(3).