Socialization of People with Disabilities in the Workplace

Executive Summary

Organizations have varying perceptions of disability in the workplace. The study discussed in this paper was undertaken in 15 organizations with a view of investigating their views on people with disabilities. It was undertaken in employment sectors that included education, production, companies, local governments, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). A review of the identified disabilities in the employment sectors is analyzed in the study.

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The data collection methods, which include interviews and questionnaires, were properly applied to ensure precise collection and representation of graphical data. Analysis of the data reveals that education and large-scale production companies adopted the best employment practices that accommodated people with disabilities. Local governments had a slightly lower percentage of support services and policies that had provisions for the underprivileged persons.

The SME sector seems to lack defined programs for the people with disabilities. The collected data was obtained from disabled employees, non-disabled employees, and organizational representatives. It was evident that organizations with structured support programs and policies readily accommodated people with disabilities. Such organizations reported the least cases of disability discrimination and harassment of employees.

In the workplace, disabled people encounter many experiences relating to social interactions and relationships with other employees, customers, and/or managers. Disability discrimination in the workplace is an issue that has been addressed in the report based on real data obtained from the study. The relationship between academic endeavors, work accommodation, and work outputs for disabled people in the workforce is also discussed in the report. From the findings, it can be recommended that organizations should provide the necessary support services and implement effective communication strategies in the workplace to promote the work output of the incapacitated personnel.


Disability in the workplace is a phenomenon that concerns physically or mentally impaired individuals. Such people are limited in many life activities such as acquiring and advancing a successful career, relationships, and/or social interactions. Although many employers despise people with disabilities, they can perform tasks competently just as normal individuals. Today, some employers consider such people as productive; hence, they offer them hiring opportunities.

Nonetheless, only qualified candidates are subject to consideration for either hiring or permanent employment. In this case, qualification refers to the possession of the appropriate skills, knowledge, and experience required for the execution of a job. On the other hand, other organizations are reluctant to employ incapacitated people based on work performance reasons. Pertaining to the methodology, questionnaires were broadly used to gather information from various respondents. Focus groups and one-on-one interviews collect data on individual experiences and viewpoints on the incapacitated workforce. The report provides a detailed examination of disability in the workplace with a view of various stratagems that modern organizations can adopt to ensure appreciation of disability inclusion.

Statement of the Problem

The accommodation of incapacitated employees in the workplace has variously raised the eyebrows of employers around the globe. Despite the fact that many disabled people have competent skills that can be harnessed in organizations to ensure improved production, many employers are still adamant to accommodate such workforce. However, there is a need to consider such individuals in employment since they can bring about significant growth in the organization. The study was aimed at determining the importance disability inclusion in the workplace with a view of promoting their skills and career goals.

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Significance of the study

The significance of the study was to determine various ways in which incapacitated individuals can be accommodated in contemporary workplaces in an attempt to appreciate their skills and knowledge in diverse areas of production. The research was deemed relevant to private employers, employment agencies, state and local governments, labor organizations, and management committees. Private employers were expected to learn ways of managing disability in the workplace besides equitable opportunities for job applications.

Labor organizations and management committees were targeted since the acquired qualitative data on disabled employees and paramount to the formulation of policies that were aimed at improving their work outputs. Employment agencies were also seen to benefit from the study through the acquisition of qualitative information that was analyzed in the study. In addition, the agencies were expected to use the information to formulate effective policies for accommodating employees in the workplace. Finally, the information contained in the research was deemed beneficial to both the state and local governments. In addition to investigating their experiences, it revealed how the organizations perceived the disabled employees in the workplace. From the obtained results, governments can plan better methods of reinforcing people with disability in the workplace.

Scope of the Study

Focus Groups

Three focus groups were considered for the study. The first group comprised employed people with disabilities while the second group encompassed non-disabled workforce. However, the third group consisted of organizational representatives from four departments of the chosen organizations.

Table 1 below shows the number of male and female participants in the disabled and non-disabled categories.

Focus groups Male Female Total
Disabled employees 8 7 15
Non-disabled employees 8 7 15

Table 1: Summary of Focus Group Participants.

Organizational representatives came from the human resources, production, finance, and sales marketing departments of the selected organizations.15organizations were selected for the exercise. They included both private and public organizations from the education sector, local governments, production, and manufacturing companies. Some small and medium enterprises were also included in the study (SMEs). Table 2 below shows the number of organizations in each category.

Sector Number of organizations Percentage
Education 4 26.7
Local government 2 13.3
Production and manufacturing companies 6 40
SMEs 3 20
Total 15 100

Table 2: Summary of distribution of organization in each category.

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Table 3 indicates the number of organizational representatives in each category.

Education Local government Production and manufacturing companies SMEs
Human resources 15 8 25 10
Production 12 12 20 9
Finance 12 10 15 8
Sales and marketing 11 10 15 8
Total 50 40 75 35


Research Methods

Focus groups were used to collect data on the physical conditions of workers and their experiences in the work environments. Participants were required to provide responses based on their experiences, attitudes, and opinions. Focus groups were evaluated in a group interview. Questionnaires were also used to gather information from individual participants. The focus group technique was efficient in gathering information about the actual workplace experiences. However, face-to-face interviews led to the acquisition of the most detailed information about the respondents.

Inclusion Criteria for Managers

The criteria for the participants entailed one-on-one interviews to acquire information on personal experiences, attitudes, and opinions regarding disability in the workplace. In addition, participants were required to give their views on the organization’s perspective of disabled employees. They were also expected to discuss the roles of managers in the implementation of laws and policies to govern the inclusion of disabled workforce.

Inclusion Criteria for Organizational Representatives

Participants from the selected organizations were required to take part in focus group discussions. The respondents were drawn from the human resources, finance, production, and sales and marketing departments. A number of participants were evaluated on their views on employment practices in the organizations, roles played in the inclusion of disabled workforce, and facilitation of work accommodations. Questionnaires were distributed to participants who were unavailable for focus groups discussions.

Sample Categories

Disabled Employees

This group comprised the physically and mentally impaired persons. Individuals attending the interview sessions were disabled employees from the selected organizations. Respondents were required to state their personal experiences in work and views on the organization’s methods of accommodating them. In this context, they were also asked to state personal experiences relating to discrimination and mistreatments. They were also expected to air their opinions on the organization’s relationships that cover their interactions with fellow employees and managerial staff.

Non-Disabled Employees

This group comprised individuals who were fit for the job without any physical or mental impairment. Participants were required to give their opinions on the experiences of the disabled employees. Information on their personal experiences relating to inconveniences by the disabled co-workers and how they viewed the organizational policies relating such people was also obtained.

Selection of Organizations

The research was drawn from fifteen organizations representing different employment sectors. Out of the organizations, 4 included educational institutions, 2 local government organizations, 6 large production companies, and 3 SMEs. The exercise involved gathering information by interviewing the focus groups and issuance of questionnaires in areas where it was deemed convenient.

Limitation of the Study

At the outset, the distance covered to reach the respondents was a significant challenge that delayed the acquisition of information. Gathering information from some organizations required covering long distances to meet the respondents. In addition, the organizations were located in different parts that meant stationing at specific regions to obtain responses whilst covering each organization at a time.

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This strategy was costly and time-consuming. In addition, some participants were uncooperative and reluctant to attend interview sessions or fill group questionnaires. A greater number of the managerial participants gave excuses of commitment while others were absent on the days of interviews. Other respondents concealed information about personal experiences during the focus group interviews. Finally, disabled respondents required specialized attention due their physical states. As a result, some respondents were omitted where communication barriers arose. However, the availability of interpreters and co-workers who understood the communication techniques of such employees was paramount to the acquisition of information in such cases.

Data Analysis

Qualitative data was analyzed using discussion topics that were proposed by the focus groups. Data from each employment category was combined to provide the overall findings in each category. Responses from each focus group were merged to obtain the aggregate responses in each category.

The Organizational Perspective on Disabled Employees in the Workplace


Some organizations have defined hiring practices that offer equal opportunities for interested and qualified candidates regardless of their personal characteristics.

Their employment practices are indiscriminately based on equity. These organizations have taken affirmative actions towards hiring and developing a diverse workforce without discriminating persons against their personal traits, color age, gender, religion age, or nationality. A further review of their organizational profiles showed that all employees were treated equally in terms of remuneration, training, and social programs.

Some organizations had also collaborated with diverse suppliers, some of which were owned by disabled people. To have a close monitoring, the organizations have developed strategies that oversee the welfare of its disabled workforce, customers, partners, and communities. Furthermore, confidence is improved with an aim of promoting successful work outputs for their disabled workforce and understanding the effects their situations in its business. There is a need to ensure mutual interactions between the incapacitated employees and their colleagues, customers, partners, and suppliers (Kulkarni & Lengnick-Hall, 2011).

Respondents from the organizations revealed that hiring processes such interviewing and placing candidates for jobs were indiscriminate. They stated that interviewers used dignified language and appropriate communication methods. In addition, respondents revealed that reasonable work accommodations were properly offered together with other policies that reinforced the disabled and non-disabled workforce.

However, other organizations lack defined strategies for hiring people with disability. Employment practices for such organizations are based on physical fitness and required qualifications for the job. The study revealed that the organizations had the least number of people with disabilities in their workforce. In addition, they had no proper policies for reasonable inclusion of incapacitated personnel. Respondents from such organizations revealed that little support was offered by the management to improve their working conditions. Furthermore, discrimination was profound in most of the management units.

A respondent in one of the organizations affirmed that the situation of being in a wheelchair denied most employees occasional trips, trainings, and other important privileges that were offered in the organization. Respondents also revealed that it was hard to earn a promotion. Social interactions were also a challenge to them since many suffered abuse and undignified language.

Support for Disabled Employees

A few organizations had their workforce focused on providing proper working conditions for the incapacitated workforce. They had properly defined policies for addressing disability in their workforce. Departmental managers were also incorporated in all the strategies for promoting successful work output among the disabled employees with a view of accommodating them in every aspect of production.

However, there were cases of defiance departments in some of the organizations where representatives felt that it was the work of the personnel department to deal with disability issues and staff development. They perceived that there should be a minimal accommodation of such employees to save time and ensure cost-effective and manageable workforce. Others perceived that disabled people are limited in many areas and were not flexible enough.

Methods for Protecting People with Disability in the Workplace

Many participants from the education sector and manufacturing companies stated that their organizations were intolerant to discrimination against incapacitated employees. They affirmed that employees in the organization were treated equally regardless of personal characteristics. The organizations have developed structured policies for addressing discrimination, bullying, and harassment. However, participants from SMEs stated that their organizations had done little to accommodate disabled employees(ILO, 2010).

Other methods for protection were enacted laws such as the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)that was enacted in 1995toprotectpeoplewithdisability. Human rights bodies are also in the forefront agitating for fair treatment and proper work accommodation for the disabled employees (Kulkarniand & Lengnick-Hall, 2011).

Role of the Managerial Staff in Protecting Disabled Employees

Organizational representatives from the human resources, finance, production, and marketing departments commented that the Disabilities Discrimination Act (DDA) legislates against discriminating persons based on disability. When job applicants disclose their disability, assessing their ability to cope with a job and the involved risk in relation to work was perceived as difficult. Availability of support services and policies to assist people with disability varied according to the size and culture of organizations. Nonetheless, many educational institutions and large companies had structured policies and services for people with disabilities while the SMEs had the most unstructured programs.

Employees Experiences in the Workplace

Individual experiences in the workplace varied depending on the nature of disability and type of work performed. Limiting factors to employee performances included the kind of job performed and the amount of work. Some respondents preferred quitting jobs instead of struggling with stringent organizational policies. They identified lack of flexibility and voluminous work as the core basis for the option. Disabilities that were identified included impairments in speech, hearing, memory, mobility agility, learning, and carnal development issues.

Effect of Disability on Work Performance

Many organizational representatives felt that disability had insignificant effects on the work outputs of the disabled employees. Some organizations had improvised effective accommodation utilities for their incapacitated employees to support their workability. A view that all employees are equal and liable to privileges, remuneration, and training sessions was also evident in the organizations. Although many activities were executed on equal grounds, there was a notable feeling that incapacitated employees had limited and rigid job performance. They felt that work performance by people without mental or physical impairments was better that the output of the disabled workforce.

Effects of Work Accommodations on Performance

The inclusion of incapacitated employees in the workplace was perceived to promote their work output. Workplace accommodations that were identified during the study included changes in physical environment, job restructuring, modified work schedules, and reassignments. Adaptation and modification of workstations in areas such as machinery, job content, and work organization led the list of accommodation activities. Job adaptation entailed the redesign of tools, machines, workstations, and work environment to meet individual needs. It also included adjustments of work organization, schedules, sequence, and breakdown of tasks to their basic elements.

Relationships with Colleagues and Managers

Feedback from the respondents showed that their physical or mental impairment was a limiting factor to many of their career development. Most of them felt that their personal characteristics barred them from some privileges that were enjoyed by fellow employees. Others held that it was hard to earn a job promotion to higher positions in their organization. Furthermore, there were cases of discrimination on several occasions during social interactions, training, and promotion practices.


Disclosure of personal characteristics is perceived differently in many organizations (Von Schrader, Malzer, & Bruyere, 2014). Although there are several measures for protecting employees against discrimination in the workplace, the problem persists in some organizations. Respondents had different views on disability disclosure to colleagues and managers. A significant number felt that it was good to unveil their statuses.

They perceived that disclosure was an appropriate decision to help the organization create reasonable accommodations. They also felt that the plan promoted healthy interactions amongst colleagues. However, some of them were reluctant to disclose their statuses. According to them, disclosing their disability status was a basis for discrimination by fellow employees besides increasing the chances of job termination by the management (Von Schrader et al., 2014). Despite their perception, some close colleagues offered them support. They also volunteered to do some duties for them.

Support from Employees

Respondents stated that some colleagues offered them practical support, particularly if they were in wheelchairs or visually impaired. In addition, other coworkers volunteered to offer emotional support to those who felt secluded from other employees. Interactions differed depending on personal features that led to helplessness. For instance, it was revealed that the interaction between disabled people in wheelchairs was different from those who were visually impaired. Some co-workers sympathized with the challenges faced by the fellow employees with disability. This situation compelled them to extend both technical and emotional support to them.

Various employees revealed to have had an informal in-depth dialog with the disabled, which eased their perceptions of discriminations and effects of awful encounters on their performance (Von Schrader et al., 2014).

Support from Managerial Staff

Managerial support varied from organization to another. Respondents from some organizations revealed that some managers were supportive in promoting better working conditions for them. Such managers facilitated job content modifications, restructured work schedules, and reduced working hours. Respondents in the organizations also divulged that most managers were willing to address their grievances and cases of work overloads.

Other respondents provided dissatisfactory views on the reactions of managers to their situations. The managers demanded work performance based on the stipulated job specifications. They were not willing to restructure either the job schedules or working hours. Other managers criticized employees who failed to meet the stipulated work output without accounting for their physical performance abilities. Stringent policies were unfavorable to the incapacitated personnel.

Social Interactions

Effective interaction is vital in promoting a non-discriminatory environment. It improves communication by ensuring proper use of language techniques. According to Kulkarniand and Lengnick-Hall (2011), speaking or writing to disabled people is paramount to effective interactions, especially in work environments. Concerning social interactions, respondents had different views. Some felt that they were secluded from participating in social debates in the workplace.

The nature of disability was a significant factor that contributed to such perceptions. For instance, in cases where the employees were mute, starting a conversation with their colleagues was significantly puzzling. The blind were equally challenged. In addition, such persons felt that most of the employees were not familiar with their methods of communications such as the use of sign language and brails for the blind. This set of circumstances totally challenged their social interactions with the coworkers.

Social interactions primarily touched on the issues that pertained to communication. Some organizations had embraced proper communication strategies that promoted the use of noble language in the workplace. However, some respondents perceived that their dignity and language were compromised. They revealed that some employees used humiliating phrases when communicating with them, a situation that was emotionally hurting. The respondents also revealed there were cases inappropriate languages such as “the blind” instead of noble phrases such as “visually impaired”. The non-disabled employees also portrayed inappropriate demeanors when maneuvering the equipment (wheelchairs and crutches) for the disabled persons.


Several cases of disability discrimination were also identified. Respondents in some organizations revealed that they were discriminated on several occasions in events such as training, promotion, and social events. A deeper analysis of the negative responses showed that over 90-percent of them worked in organizations without well-established policies for the disabled persons. As a result, some employees just had to tolerate the situations while those who were adversely affected wished to quit the job.


Findings were represented in three sections according to the organizational perspectives on the disabled employees. Integrating incapacitated workforce into the diverse operations of the organization was said to promote their relationships with colleagues and managers.

The Organizational Perspective on Disabled Employees

Organizational representatives were selected from four departments to participate in the exercise. These are human resources, production, finance, and sales and marketing. The participants were drawn from different employment sectors that are education, local government, production and manufacturing companies, and SMEs. The discussion focused on hiring and retention practices, support and protection of disabled people in the workplace and organizations take on accommodations.

Table 4 organizational perspectives on people with disabilities.

Sector Support services and policies (%) Disability discrimination (%)
Education 75 15
Local government 68 18
Production and manufacturing companies 65 21
SMEs 42 32
Organizational Perspectives on People with Disabilities and Discrimination.
Figure 1: A Graph showing the organizational Perspectives on People with Disabilities and Discrimination.

The education sector had the highest percentage of well-structured support services and policies (75%) with only 15% disability discrimination. The organizations had the best accommodation programs. The local government’s support for disability inclusion stood at 68% with 18% discrimination based on discrimination. The manufacturing companies revealed 65% support services and policies. The level of discrimination in this sector was approximately 21%. The SMEs had the least percentage (42%) on support services and policies, leading the other sectors with 32% disability discrimination. The following information was obtained concerning the disabled employees.

The summary of the identified disabilities.
Chart 1 shows the summary of the identified disabilities.

Multiple disabilities were common in each organization. About three-quarters of the people had at least two identifiable disabilities. However, not all the disabilities resulted in activity limitations in the workplace. Speech impairments were represented by 32 percent of the disabled workforce. The experience of pain was cited by 65% of persons with disabilities, mobility by 44%, and hearing 15%. 21-percent revealed a psychiatric disability while10-percentwere characterized by learning and development incapacities. About 21% of those aged15 to 64 years felt that they were not limited to work. 53-percent of the respondents who suffered from mild disabilities were employed. They also said that work was not affected.

Workplace Accommodation Programs

Reasonable accommodations refer to the adjustments that are made by the employers to enable disabled people to enjoy the same opportunities as other employees. They improve the working conditions of employees with a view of increasing their work outputs. From the research, accommodations for modified hours and rescheduling were among the most prioritized tactics for incorporating people with disability in the workplace.

Work Limitations

Work limitations were the major contributing factors towards establishing reasonable accommodations for the disabled employees. An analysis of the data obtained from the 15 organizations showed is represented in the table below.

Tables 5 Represents the identified of work limitations in the organizations

Age 18 to 60 Total employed moderate severe
Condition affects work
Sometimes 28 49 20
Often 24.5 30.6 42.2
No 30.4 25.3 15.8
Not applicable 8.4 10.7 9.4
Because condition
Change kind of work 48.7 30.4 70.1
Change amount of work 46 32.6 63.4
Change job 36.1 36.5 56.4
Consider self to be disadvantaged
in employment
39.5 48.2 25.6
Consider yourself disadvantaged by your employer 29.4 33 27.6
Condition makes it difficult
Jobs or advance 15.6 21.2 9
Very difficult 32.5 23 9.7
Difficult 11.1 22 10.7
Condition in the past 10 years
Refused employment 8.3 7.9 9.4
Refused employment 6 5.3 5.8
Refused access to training 7.6 6.8 7.8
Terminated from job 8.7 9.5 7.2

The above data shows an analysis of the limitations that barred disabled employees from effective execution of their work. The identified include conditions that led to work influences, changes, and/or hardships for the last 10 years. Chart 2 below shows the work schedule changes for incorporating people with disability in the workplace.

Work schedule modifications.
Chart 2: Work schedule modifications.

Work schedule changes for incorporating people with disability in the workplace accommodations involving job adaptations and schedule modifications showed that Modified hours had the greatest percentage (52%) while Technical aids took the bottom position. Job redesign (modified duties had a significantly higher percentage close to modified hours (48%), accessible elevator cited a 32%, appropriate parking 34% while accessible washroom showed 28%. Human support accessible transportation had 21% and 17% respectively.


Flexibility is paramount to the success of any organization that is deemed to achieve its goals (Burkhauser, Schmeiser, & Weathers II, 2012). As a result, employers should be willing to help their employees achieve workplace success irrespective of their physical states. From the findings of the study, the following recommendations were suggested.

  1. At the outset, organizations should revise their profiles to have equitable chances of hiring and retention of employees regardless of personal characteristics. In addition, they should define structured policies for protecting the disabled employees from discrimination and harassment.
  2. Reasonable accommodations should be provided for the incapacitated personnel to improve their working conditions and facilitate successful work outputs. Employees require the appropriate tools, equipment, and support that promote their accomplishment of individual goals in the work environment. Employers should remain in the forefront to ensure that proper accommodation for the disabled employees is ensured to maximize their potential in the realization of the overall organizational objectives.
  3. Organizations should also play a pivotal role in determining the competence of disabled people incorporating both academic qualifications and other personal aspects such as commitment, hard work among others. Incapacitated people constantly think about creating new solutions for their conditions that limit performance and employability
  4. Departmental and line managers should support the disabled workforce through job and workplace restructurings. The plan should be ensured by creating flexible opportunities that fit the conditions of the disabled. Although it can seem a daunting task, contemporary organizations are in dire need of the most diverse workforce to benefit from a plethora of skills that will eventually result in an improved accomplishment of both short-term and long-term goals.
  5. Finally yet importantly, organizations need to build effective communication networks to facilitate feasible relationships and effective social interactions in the workplace.


From this study, it can be concluded that many organizations perceive disabled employees as people who are equally productive as the non-disabled employees. Few organizations that lagged behind showed prospects of having structured programs and policies of reinforcing disabled people in their workforce. In addition, there were minimal cases of disability discrimination in all the organizations. Furthermore, there were many programs for accommodating disabled people in most work environments. Finally, the analysis of the findings showed that many experiences of people with disability lie in their ability to communicate with fellow employees, managers, and customers. Based on the study, it is obvious that many organizations have adopted favorable policies for disabled people in the workplace. Job adaptations and restructuring of work schedules have been seen as the major achievements in disability inclusion many organizations.

Reference List

Burkhauser, R., Schmeiser, M., & Weathers II, R. (2012). The Importance of Anti-Discrimination and Workers’ Compensation Laws on the Provision of Workplace Accommodations Following the Onset of a Disability. Industrial & Labor Relations Review, 65(1), 161-80. Web.

ILO. (2010). Disability in the Workplace: Company Practices. Web.

Kulkarni, M., & Lengnick-Hall, M. (2011). Socialization of people with disabilities in the workplace. Human Resource Management, 50(4), 521-40. Web.

Von Schrader, S., Malzer, V., & Bruyere, S. (2014). Perspectives on Disability Disclosure: The Importance of Employer Practices and Workplace Climate. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 4(1), 237. Web.

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