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Employer's attitudes toward persons with disabilities in the workforce: myths or realities?

Unger (2002) studied employer attitudes toward persons with disabilities in the workforce. A description of the methodologies used in the investigations as well as factors that might affect employer's attitudes towards people with disabilities in the workforce were analyzed. Unger reviewed literature published from 1982 to 2000 to determine employer attitudes towards workers with disabilities. Factors that were investigated in employer attitudinal research were the disability of the applicant or the employee, previous experience with workers with disabilities, size of employer, and the particular sector of business or industry of the employer.

Unger (2002) states "one of the critical shortcomings with the existing research on employer's perceptions towards workers with disabilities is that the majority of the studies surveyed employer representatives who were responsible for hiring or supervising but did not necessarily have actual, firsthand experience in working with employees with disabilities." Unger found that the type and severity of the disability could affect the extent to which people with disabilities are included in the workforce and that employers are sometimes willing to sacrifice work performance or work quality in exchange for a dependable employee.

Another important finding is that employer concerns regarding the work potential of employees with disabilities may come from myths and misconceptions and not actually from direct experience with workers with disabilities. An applicant may not be recognized as a "qualified employee with a disability" under the provisions of the ADA because of those myths and misconceptions. When an employer had previous experience working with a person with a disability, they reported more favorable perceptions of persons with disabilities and also a willingness to hire persons with disabilities. Unger concludes "the employment experiences of persons with disabilities during this time may provide an indication of the extent to which employer attitudes present significant barriers to the employment of millions of Americans with disabilities desiring to participate in our nation's workforce."

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Unger, D. D. (2002). Employer's attitudes toward persons with disabilities in the workforce: myths or realities? Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 17(1), 2-10.


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