ORCID

http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7305-0741

Date of Award

2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Education (Ph.D)

Department

Administrative and Instructional Leadership

First Advisor

Rene Parmar

Second Advisor

Mary Ellen Freeley

Third Advisor

Catherine DiMartino

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate employer perspective on augmenting work experiences for individuals with disabilities in the workplace through a qualitative case study approach. This study utilized two specific workplaces that are structured, have core values, are mission-driven and support individuals with differing abilities. The goal was to develop an understanding on how these workplaces continue to help individuals gain meaningful employment while supporting their differences and unique learning approaches in the workplace. Data collection included employer interviews, employee insight, an employer focus group, observations of employees at the work sites, artifacts, photos and the researcher’s journals. Information from national and state guidelines, theoretical perspectives regarding transition and employment for individuals with disabilities, and themes emerging from the data were used for interpretation of the results.

Concluding results from the data are high retention rates in employment in mission driven environments as well as a high sense of purpose in a majority of the employees work ethic. There is also data to support personal feelings and connections to employers initiating the business model as well as use of unique interview processes that involve more task orientated practices. In the business environments analyzed in this study, there were more frequent positive interview experiences for individuals with disabilities. The data also supported similar challenges in businesses with social missions, including the need for more soft skill attainment for all individuals when in their school-ages years. The understanding of social context presented difficulties at times for individuals with disabilities when at work, as well as managing hours and work schedules for adults working and receiving state benefits. In New York, individuals receiving special benefits may only be paid a certain number of hours, differing for all individuals. Even if the employee is able and willing to work more hours which is often the case in these environments, there are restrictions for the number of hours employees can pay the individuals.

Future studies should include more qualitative research with other businesses with similar business models, practices and social missions. Further qualitative research should include businesses in and outside of the New York area to compare similar practices and help promote new practices in businesses augmenting work experiences for individuals with disabilities in an effort to help improve future employment rates for individuals with differing abilities.

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