An exploration into employers’ experiences and perspectives on working with people with intellectual disabilities and complex needs

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Callaghan, Emma
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Community-Academic Research Links, University College Cork
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People with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) are largely underrepresented in the labour force according to Ireland’s 2016 census figures. Yet studies have proven there is a strong desire to work among people with ID. Dedicated supported employment services such as COPE Foundation’s Ability@Work programme work with young adults with ID to integrate them into the labour market, however, they face a variety of barriers. This dissertation strives to explore the holistic needs of employers who have experience employing people with ID and examine the barriers and supports to maintaining continuous employment within their companies. As part of this qualitative study, a focus group and semi-structured interviews were undertaken with five managers/supervisors who employ people with ID through the Ability@Work programme. The research found that people with ID make a substantially positive contribution to the workplace as they have a great work ethic and help boost morale. The main barrier perceived by participants was a lack of understanding and knowledge of disability which influenced their ambiguous assumptions to employing people with ID. The three main supports revealed in the findings were the essential role of job coaches provided by COPE Foundation, engaging in initiatives such as Job Shadowing and adjusting workplace practices. Promoting an inclusive work environment was seen as essential to all participants. This research is underpinned by an anti-discriminatory perspective which acknowledges a person with ID’s right to seek meaningful employment on an equal basis to others. The research concludes with the recommendations to increase awareness of disability though employer education, staff training and building public awareness of inclusive workplaces.
Intellectual disabilities , Complex needs , COPE Foundation , ID , Ability@Work programme , Job shadowing , Employers’ experience , Inclusive workplace
Callaghan, E. (2020) An exploration into employers’ experiences and perspectives on working with people with intellectual disabilities and complex needs. Cork: Community-Academic Research Links, University College Cork.
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