Article Details

Research Database: Article Details

Citation:  Harris, S. P., Owen, R., Jones, R., & Caldwell, K. (2013). Does workfare policy in the United States promote the rights of people with disabilities?. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 39 (1), 61 – 74.
Title:  Does workfare policy in the United States promote the rights of people with disabilities?
Authors:  Harris, S. P., Owen, R., Jones, R., & Caldwell, K.
Year:  2013
Journal/Publication:  Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Publisher:  IOS Press
Full text:   
Peer-reviewed?  Yes
NIDILRR-funded?  Not reported
Research design:  Qualitative research

Structured abstract:

Background:  In the United States, individuals with disabilities have low levels of participation in the job market, which is of considerable concern to policymakers. The difficulty for policymakers is the implementation of effective strategies that will prompt individuals with disabilities receiving disability benefits to enter the workforce. One strategy, that has been heavily scrutinized, is Ticket to Work, which was created with the intent to move individuals with disabilities from welfare to employment. The area of individuals with disabilities in the welfare reform system is under-researched. Policy domains socially exclude individuals with disabilities in areas of employment, transportation, housing, and public building access, among other areas. The Americans with Disabilities Act is the primary legislation aimed to eradicate this discrimination, as it is rights-based and aims to advocate for the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in society. Employment for individuals with disabilities is specifically targeted within Title I of the ADA, as it makes employment discrimination illegal, in addition to requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.
Purpose:  The purpose of this study is to examine how Vocational Rehabilitation services are affected by the welfare reform, in regards to individuals with disabilities. This study wants to look specifically at current policy to determine if it allows individuals with disabilities to seek full and equal participation in the work force. The study examines if individuals with disabilities have equal opportunity to gain employment.
Setting:  The setting of this study was Chicago, Illinois from November to December 2010. Two of the three focus group meetings took place at separate Centers for Independent Living (CIL).
Study sample:  Two of the focus groups were comprised of existing cross-disability groups. These groups met regularly to discuss employment and disability. The third focus group was comprised of individuals who were recruited to the study through recruitment materials, such as email, flyers, and listservs. In order to be selected to participate in the study, the individual must have received disability benefits and/or employment services, such as Ticket to Work. The individual also had to have the goal of entering the workforce. Within the sample, a variety of race, gender, age, educational background, and disabilities were naturally included, so no eligible participants were denied. Interview participants were recruited in a similar way. Employers, employment service providers, and policymakers comprised the sample of the interview portion of this study.
Data collection and analysis:  The focus groups were approximately an hour and a half long, each, while each interview was around an hour. Both the focus groups and interviews were audio-recorded. Transcripts were then created and analyzed. A semi-structured interview guide was used in both the focus groups and interviews, with a concentration on the experiences and view of policies regarding employment for individuals with disabilities. Ticket to Work was a specific focus of these experiences and views. Individuals with disabilities experiences with job training programs, access to and information available on moving from welfare to employment, individual and structural barriers to gaining work in an open work market, and the understanding of their rights, were all topics explored in the interviews and focus groups. Forty-five codes were used for the focus groups, while 25 codes for the interviews. Individuals with disabilities of working age, employers, employment service providers, and policymakers comprised the focus group and interview sample, producing a comprehensive analysis of current United States policy regarding welfare to work and rights of individuals with disabilities.
Findings:  Common themes concerning equal opportunities for and full and equal participation of individuals with disabilities in the workforce after Ticket to Work came into effect were found in the data. The discussion of rights of individuals with disabilities, specifically a national legislative focus and job accommodations, was the first theme. The second theme was individuals with disabilities’ expectations. These expectations include the responsibility of both the government and citizens, and the overall perception of disability. The third theme that emerged in the data was workfare policy and the practices connected with it.
Conclusions:  The study concluded that in order to achieve human rights policymakers, community organizations, and the business community must work together. The study also concludes that changes need to be made in the existing welfare to work practices. In existing to changing some of the existing practices, individuals with disabilities need to be informed of current policies and programs.

Interventions:  Vocational rehabilitation
Outcomes:  Employment acquisition