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Chapter 3: Methodology
Methodology refers to the process and procedures that will be employed in the research. This section discusses the methodology that will be employed in collecting data and the techniques to be used in the analysis of this data. Additionally, this section discusses the location of study, the population targeted, methods and instruments of data collection and analysis.
Aim of the Study
Visually impaired individuals are rarely considered when public places are being constructed. As a result, many public places, most specifically malls, are constructed without putting up designs that can accommodate these individuals in society. Therefore, the experiences of visually impaired in these public places becomes anything but pleasant. Looking at the increasing number of shopping malls in Bahrain and the high number of visually impaired individuals, there is a need to address this problem so as to accommodate these individuals and make their experiences in these places enjoyable.
This research will aim at identifying workable solutions that can be incorporated in the development of malls in Bahrain to accommodate the needs of the visually impaired in society. To achieve this, this research will be guided by the following objectives:

  1. To look closer at the barriers facing the visually impaired in public places focusing mainly on shopping malls.
  2. To explore public places structures in different countries and how well these countries have studied the issue and addressed it to accommodate the needs of the visually impaired.
  3. To Research shopping malls and study their preparation to accommodate visually impaired individuals in Bahrain.
  4. To identify various design problems of shopping malls in Bahrain that cause difficulties which make the experience of the visually impaired in malls unpleasant.
  5. To propose feasible design solutions that can be implemented in the development of shopping malls in Bahrain, to fix the problems identified and facilitate pleasant experience of the visually impaired in shopping malls.

Additionally, the research will be guided by the following research questions:

  1. What challenges do visually impaired individuals face when visiting shopping malls in Bahrain?
  2. What features of the design of shopping malls in Bahrain cause these problems?
  3. How can design help in solving the difficulties that people with visual impairment face in a shopping mall?

Qualitative Research Approach
            This study will use the qualitative phenomenological approach as the method of data collection. Qualitative approach refers to a wide group of empirical techniques that are specifically designed to analyze and interpret the experiences of study participants in a specific setting (Denzin and Lincoln, 2011). Qualitative methods are mostly employed in social and natural sciences and other non-academic researches like business and market research. This approach allows for an in-depth exploration of non-numerical data and includes respondents’ perspectives as well as their lived experiences (Dworkin, 2012).
Development of what we now called qualitative methods can be traced back to the late 18th and 20the centuries but these methods only gained popularity and validity on the 1970s. At this time, the main focus of debate was whether it was possible to control variables in research involving human subjects (Snape and Spencer, 2003).
Within this qualitative approach, the phenomenon of interest will be addressed through the lens of individual experience in a natural setting (Bluhm, Harman, Lee, & Mitchell, 2011). Phenomenological qualitative research involves trying to gain an understanding of the essence of a phenomenon by examining the views of individuals that have experienced that specific phenomenon. In this case, the phenomenon under study in this research is the experiences of visually impaired people in public places most especially shopping malls. Phenomenology looks at individual experiences of the group of people under study. It usually involves long in-depth interviews with the participants in order to understand these experiences in order to draw conclusions. Cases that will be used will be derived from qualitative research journals.
There are many methods used in qualitative approach to generate data including interviews, participant observations, shadowing, focus groups, and case studies. One of the most used methods of qualitative research which will be used in this study is the case study which studies at length samples of works done on the phenomenon under study. In many researches, case studies are used to gain knowledge on a phenomenon in various disciplines including sociology, psychology, social work, business and political science (Yin, 2003). Case study involves both single and multiple case studies which are regarded as variants of case study design.
A decision needs to be made early on whether a researcher will use a single case or multiple cases to gather data to address the research questions. Single case study is employed in the following situations: when testing a well formulated theory that has specified propositions that can be validated using a single case and when the case under study is a unique or an extreme case of a phenomenon (Yin, 2003). Single cases however have a major disadvantage which is that the case used may later turn out not to be the case that it was thought to be at the beginning. For this reason, it is more practical to employ the use of various cases to eliminate this drawback. Multiple case studies are considered to be more compelling than single ones since it allows for comparability between similar cases to identify if they yield the same conclusions. If similar cases lead to the same conclusions it may increase the reliability of these cases as sources of research for a current study. For purposes of gathering as much information as necessary on the subject under study, the researcher will employ the use of multiple case studies in this research.
A major advantage of using qualitative research methods is that it produces a detailed description of participants’ feelings, experiences and opinions (Denzin, 1989). It holistically brings about the understanding of human experiences in various settings (Denzin and Lincoln, 2002). These methods seek to identify what is important to people based on their knowledge and experiences. Data gathered depending on human experiences is regarded to be more compelling than data gathered through quantitative methods since it takes a humanistic approach. Therefore, studies conducted using these methods are regarded to be more powerful.
Additionally, these approach uses interviews to respond to the research questions. With regards to interviews, they are not limited to particular questions. The researcher has the power to mold the questions to fit his specific needs. Additionally these questions need not be followed mechanically, the researcher can employ his creativity and use his experience to ask additionally questions to gain a better understanding of the issue at hand. Furthermore, the researcher through interviews gets to interact directly with participants which allows for the detailed collection of data both verbal and non-verbal. Moreover, with this approach, the researcher knows exactly what to expect which is usually not the case with quantitative approach. With regard to this particular research, the researcher expects to gather first hand experiences of visually impaired individuals experience in shopping malls that do not have any feature to accommodate them and use this data to find practical solutions to better their experiences.
However, the qualitative approach has its fair share of limitations. One obvious limitation is that the approach focuses on meanings and experiences which may lead to overlooking of other contextual issues. Additionally, the data collected is subjective which may lead to biased conclusions which may make a research study’s results unreliable. Policy makers on the other hand do not give a lot of credibility to qualitative research studies. For instance, in the United States of America, policy makers in the education sector prefer quantitative studies rather than qualitative ones (Ravitch, 2010). A reason for this is that purely qualitative methods are considered to have neglected the variables in the study (Richards and Richards 1994). Furthermore, qualitative studies take a significantly long time to complete especially if the population under study is a large one. Since quantitative studies take a considerably short amount of time, policy makers and organizations often demand quantitative studies instead of qualitative ones.
However, despite these shortcomings, qualitative methods of research remain a prominent method of study especially in social sciences and business studies
Data Collection Tools
The data collection tool that will be used to collect information will be the interview method. Interviews can either be unstructured, structured or semi structured. For this study, the research instrument that will be employed in the interview process will comprise of a semi structured questionnaire in order to maintain consistency with all participants. These interviews will be face to face and will be medium length i.e. between 30-60 minutes to enable the researcher to collect the necessary information for the study. Interview questionnaires will be of two types, for the two different group of participants i.e. the visually impaired individuals and mall managers. In addition, the interview guide will be reviewed to remove ambiguous questions. The instrument will be piloted once the proposal is approved so that answers to these preliminary questions are used to finalize the instrument.
Interview method is chosen as the main method of data collection since it allows the interviewer to capture both verbal and non-verbal ques like body language which would allow the researcher to determine the level of discomfort a particular question causes a participant or the level of honesty of their answers. Conducting interviews via the telephone or online would eliminate the possibility of capturing non-verbal ques which may limit the accuracy of the data collected. Additionally, face to face interviews allow the interviewer to keep the interview process focused on the task at hand and complete it within the allocated time. Telephone and online interviews could face many distractions which may lead to interviewee losing focus in the interview and leading to the process taking a longer time than expected. Moreover, face to face interviews allow for accurate screening of the participant. In this case, the participant cannot provide false information about their age, gender and the fact that they are visually impaired. Such certainty is often not possible while conducting telephone or online interviews. In a nutshell, face to face interviews allow an interviewer to collect accurate information and observe cues that would otherwise not be able to be observed in a telephone or online interview.
However, despite its various advantages, this method has significant disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is that it limits the sample size. Size of the sample will be determined by the size of the interviewing staff as well as the area under study and the number of respondents in that particular area of study. To curb this challenge, the researcher should hire a sizable number of interviewers and expand the area of study to multiple areas in order to increase the sample size. Additionally, the interview method can be costly as the researcher may need to hire interviewers to assist in the data collection process. To curb this problem, the interviewer can seek help from colleagues and friends to assist in the interview process thereby eliminating the need to hire interviewers.
Sampling Techniques
The sampling strategy that will be employed will be snowball sampling which is a non-probability sampling technique where current respondents in a study are used to recruit future respondents. This technique will be used to recruit the first few visually impaired respondents who will then shed some light or point the interviewer to others like them that can be useful in the study. This method is preferred in this research as it will save time for the researcher.
Data Collection Procedures
The study will make use of both primary and secondary data sources. Interviews will be conducted using a semi structured interview schedule, and the responses will be voice recorded for accuracy and for analysis by the researcher afterwards. The secondary sources comprised of other researches that have already been carried out in different countries about the same phenomenon.
The semi structured interviews will be conducted on a face to face basis and respondents will be interviewed individually. The interview method in qualitative research is adequate because it requires the ability to hold a conversation within a relevant context. The open ended questions will prompt the respondents and allow them to give even more information. The snowball sampling method will be relied on to achieve the required sample size.
Interviews will be done at the respondent’s convenience. All interviews will be conducted in person at the respondent’s convenience. The researcher will introduce himself to the respondents and briefly explain the study background and its aim.   Additionally, the respondents will be asked to sign a consent form after this introduction. This form will cover confidentiality clauses, and the purpose of the study before any data is collected.  Immediately after signing of this form, the respondent will be asked if they have any questions before the interview begins to eliminate any misunderstandings.
The area of study has been identified as Bahrain which is the third smallest nation in Asia. It is 780 km2 in size with a population of 1234,571 including over 600,000 non-nationals (Bahrain Census, 2010). Due to the rapid development of many shopping malls set up in various areas of the country, there is a need to investigate if these malls are suited to the needs of the visually impaired. Since the main aim of the establish and improve the experiences of visually impaired individuals in shopping malls around Bahrain, the target population will be visually impaired individuals that visit the shopping malls in Bahrain within the country and within the country and mall managers. Mall managers are of interest in this study since they can shed light on the mall features that are put in place or that could be put in place to accommodate visually impaired individuals.
Once participants have agreed to be interviewed, the date, place and time of interview will need to be confirmed preferably through a phone call. Once confirmed, the place of interview needs to be confirmed for availability and thereafter set up to ensure that the participants will be comfortable. Additionally, the interviewer needs to ensure that any external distractions and noise are minimized. Refreshments for participants will also be laid out. The researcher should also ensure that they have all the materials necessary to conduct the interview (notebook, tape recorder, pen, interview questionnaire, and consent and confidentiality forms) and gather the necessary data so as to ensure that all data is adequately captured and recorded.
Data Analysis
All interviews will be audio recorded and the researcher will take extensive field notes while performing the interviews. All audio recordings will be transcribed within a week of the interview. Following the week, transcripts will be verified to ensure that all data has been captured. Interviews will transcribed and checked against the field notes for coding as well. Once done, all audio recordings will be deleted. All respondents interviewed will be given a narrative memo.
The coding process will begin once the raw data is assigned a code for the purpose of analysis. The axial coding technique will be used to assign categories, which will be gathered from the narrative. After the codes are pinpointed and identified, they will be categorized based on themes (Charmaz 2010; Creswell 2013). The coding process will help the researcher to answer the research questions using specific key words related to each research question. Themes will be raised from the transcription and coding and reported in the data reporting and presentation section.
Ethical Considerations
Ethical standards for research protocols will be strictly defined within the bounds of consent and privacy laws. Respondents will be informed of their rights to participate in the study. They will be informed of their right to anonymity and will be given the option to drop out of the study at any time. It will be spelt out clearly to the participants that the intent of this study is for academic purposes. Informed consent both oral and written will be asked of the participants. It will remain clear, that their participation and answers to the questions will be completely confidential. Moreover, it is important that ethical standards remain in place throughout the course of the study and any participant will be free to voice his or her concerns about their participation and possible outcomes of the study to the researcher.
Trustworthiness refers to the level of credibility or validity of the data gathered in the research. It is a central issue in qualitative research since it seeks to establish human experiences and humans can be deceptive and untrustworthy. There are different ways of establishing trustworthiness including confirmability, interviewer corroboration, participant check and negative case analysis (Lincoln and Guba, 1985). Most used methods of ascertaining trustworthiness is data triangulation. The researcher will use data triangulation which Denzin and Lincoln (1998) explain is the practice of providing rigor, depth, and breadth to a study. Data will be triangulated using the respondents interview response to the researcher, the participant’s level of visual impairment, their experience in malls and their views on what should be done to make their experiences in shopping malls better. These three sources of information will be compared for validity and reliability of data being reported for the study.
Potential Research Bias
Bias can find its way into any research and therefore it is impossible to have a research that could be 100% bias free. There are different types of bias that face different researches. In this study, the anticipated research bias are Respondent bias and researcher bias. Respondent bias anticipated is the friendliness bias where the respondent tends to agree with everything that the interview suggests since they view the interviewer as an expert. A way of overcoming this would be not to ask interview questions that imply there is a right answer and ask questions that focus on getting the participants true opinion. Additionally, the interviewer can avoid suggesting things to the interviewee. Another form of respondent bias is Habituation which is defined as a situation where the participant gives the same answers for different questions due to fatigue. A way to overcome this would be to keep the interview under 60 minutes in order to ensure that the respondents do not become tired.
Anticipated researcher bias include Question-order bias and leading question bias. Question order bias is a situation where one question influences answers to the next questions. Typically, participants are influenced by the words and thoughts in questions that influence their feelings and attitudes. This bias is unavoidable in qualitative studies and the researcher can only try and minimize it by asking general questions first before heading to specific ones, and asking positive questions before moving to negative ones. Leading questions bias is not a bias in itself but can lead to bias since researchers can ask leading questions in order to manipulate the answers from respondents to favor their own way of thought. This mainly occurs if a researcher has already made up his mind about the hypothesis they are trying to confirm. To avoid this bias, the researcher should have an open mind and avoid summarizing respondents’ answers in their own words and write them down exactly as the participants say.
Assumptions and limitations of the study
            The assumptions of this study are:

  • Respondents who were visually impaired will be either blind or people with low vision. Low vision is defined as having maximal visual acuity of less than or equal to 20/40 one eye or both while the maximal visual acuity referred to in blindness is equal or less than 20/200.
  • Respondents have visited shopping malls.
  • Respondents have had difficulties navigating through shopping malls.

Some of the limitations to this study would include:

  • Finding the right respondents is anticipated to be a limitation.
  • The projected study time may not be enough due to the number of interviews that should be conducted.
  • Some respondents may be willing to participate in the study.
  • There may be very little research that has been carried out in other countries on the same subject.
  • The study may be costly.

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