2001 Conference Proceedings

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Caren Sax, Ed.D.
San Diego State University
Department of Administration, Rehabilitation, & Postsecondary Education
619-594-7183 (phone)

Marcia J. Scherer, Ph.D., MPH
Institute for Matching Person & Technology, Inc. (IMPT)
486 Lake Road
Webster, New York 14580
716-671-3461 (phone)

Individuals who deliver technologies and related services are increasingly being asked to involve the consumer in product evaluation and selection. To accomplish this collaboration with consumers, professionals have stated that they would benefit from training in how to best talk with consumers and find out about their preferences, goals, needs, and environments in which they use technologies. Additionally, professionals have said that their own training and education tended to emphasize technical skills and not various ways in which to talk and work with other persons.

Many technology professionals have said they often feel uncomfortable about asking questions that may be considered too personal or which they believe may "put the interviewee on the spot." While aiming to be helpful, professionals may have a tendency to prematurely offer solutions before the issue is fully defined by the interviewee.

Basic interviewing skills are a key foundation for the formation of effective person-centered collaboration. This session offers a succession of strategies based on the work of Allen Ivey (e.g. 1997). These strategies will be discussed, modeled, and practiced using scenarios featuring applications of AT so that the technology professional can integrate these skills into their own repertoire, thereby enhancing their ability to better meet the needs of individuals with disabilities.


These skills are key to opening an interview and establishing rapport and a trusting relationship with the interviewee. They include the following:

  1. Listen, listen, and then listen some more.
  2. Use varied eye contact - don't stare and don't avoid eye contact.
  3. Use a relaxed posture
  4. Use a natural vocal style, even when working with a person who is hard of hearing Stay on the topic.
  5. If it gets convoluted, then focus on a key aspect of what the interviewee is saying and make a comment about it or ask a question.


Open questions are those that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no response. They are typically, how, why and what questions. They help the interviewer: Begin an interview Obtain elaboration on a point or topic Focus or redirect the conversation Elicit examples of what the interviewee is trying to communicate III. CLARIFICATION (OF CONTENT) Clarification is used to encourage the interviewee to continue exploring a topic and to ensure accurate understanding. A. To encourage topic exploration, the interviewer can repeat one or two key words and/or use one of the following: Oh? Then? And? B. Paraphrasing is helpful in checking out one's understanding of what the interviewee is trying to communicate. For example, the interviewer repeats the essence of what the interview says followed by: "Is that right?" "Am I close?"


This skill involves a reflection of the feelings expressed, rather than the content. Statements like, "When you discuss _____, it seems that you feel __________. Why is that?" It is often the case that feelings get in the way of taking action and, until the feelings are opening expressed, the interviewee may not be open to considering the options presented by the technology professional.

V. Summarization

The key purpose of summarization is to help an interviewee integrate behavior, thoughts and feelings; it covers both emotional (or affective) and objective content. The above five general techniques are often coupled with an interview guide. This helps ensure: both interviewer and interviewee stay on topic, a comprehensive view of an interviewee's preferences, goals, needs, dreams, etc. is obtained, and a written document emerges that is the interviewee's delineation of priorities. Even the most skilled and trained interviewers have areas that they feel more or less comfortable in discussing with interviewees. Rather than avoid a topic, there are several non-threatening ways the information can be obtained, a topic explored and understanding conveyed. This session is a beginning step in the development of just such a toolkit.


Ivey, A.E., Gluckstern, N.B., & Ivey, M.B. (1997). Basic attending skills, third edition. North Amherst, MA: Microtraining Associates.

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