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Beyond Barriers: Exploring Ableism in the Workplace

Boek - Dissertatie

Disabled people’s right to participate fully in the domain of economic life has been stressed in the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (2006). Although countries have been pointed to their responsibility in ensuring that they can realize this right to work, the socio-economic disadvantaged position of disabled people remains a harsh reality in large parts of the world. Ample evidence shows how labor markets have not ‘opened up’ sufficiently to warmly welcome those deemed ‘different’. This is illustrated by the persistency of various disability gaps, such as lower employment rates (OECD, 2010), segregation into low-skilled and low quality work (Jones, 2013; Maroto and Pettinicchio, 2014), overrepresentation in part-time work (Pagán, 2007; 2012), lower wages (Malo and Pagán, 2012) and a glass-ceiling (Braddock and Bachelder, 1994), making management and leadership positions for disabled people a rare phenomenon (Roulstone and Williams, 2014). A wealth of studies have sought to explain the disadvantaged labor market position of disabled individuals, drawing on various ‘models of disability’. Whereas an individual model of disability would search for the cause for socio-economic deprivation within the individual with an impairment, a social model of disability looks for explanations in the social environment. In the former model, bodily and cognitive deviations from the norm are seen as causing the disadvantage, while in the latter model social and political structures are held responsible for disabling people with impairments. The best known social approach, is the ‘social barrier model’ that gained adherence both among activists and academics from the ’70’s onwards. Many agree that this model has been a revolutionary catalyst for the transformation of the understanding of disability from medical abnormality and personal tragedy to one of socio-political oppression (Thomas, 2007). Since the turn of the century, multiple eclectic versions of the social model have emerged as a consequence of an increasing number of criticisms on the early social barrier model by various sources such as feminists, postmodernists and poststructuralists (e.g. Corker, 1999; Thomas, 2004; Tremain, 2015). Focusing on the discursive aspects of disability, the ‘cultural model’ was brought to light as a novel way of thinking about disability. Most theoretically aligned with the cultural model, the theoretical framework drawn upon here is ‘ableism’ which has recently emerged as a new lens to understand the mechanisms of disabled people’s exclusion and subordination in workplaces. Ableism has been defined as ‘a network of beliefs, processes and practices that produces a particular kind of self and body (the corporeal standard) that is projected as the perfect, essential and fully human (Campbell, 2001: 44)’. It puts forward as explanation for the exclusion of disabled people, the binary of disability/able-bodiedness which informs the meanings attached to disabled workers in negative and constraining ways. The goal of this dissertation then is to theoretically refine the concept of ableism and extend it in the context of work. Empirically this thesis contributes to this goal through three separate papers, drawing on multiple sources collected in three organizations. These three organizations were a regional public organization, a private bank and a local public administration. This provided 65 interviews in total, of which 30 were held with employees with an officially recognized impairment, while the other 35 were held with other organizational actors such as supervisors, HR managers, labor union representatives and occupational doctors. The data were subsequently analyzed by means of critical discourse analysis and narrative analysis.
Aantal pagina's: 136
Jaar van publicatie:2016
Trefwoorden:disability, impairment, work, employment, identity, Foucault, Bourdieu