Counseling and Special Education Faculty Publications

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Social inclusion in community work settings remains an elusive outcome for many employees with intellectual disabilities. This study explored how the structure of work relationships with colleagues facilitates or inhibits social integration. Data were collected on 22 employees with disabilities through semi-structured interviews with six employment specialists and participant observations of six employees at their community worksites. Data were interpreted using intergroup contact theory, a longstanding theory within the intergroup relations literature that addresses the role of contact in reducing prejudice toward members of negatively stereotyped groups. As predicted by intergroup contact theory, interviews and observations revealed that coworkers were generally more accepting of an employee with a disability if (a) they had the opportunity to get to know the employee as an individual rather than as a stereotype or label, (b) they worked with the employee as an equal peer to accomplish common work goals, and (c) the employer or worksite supervisor unequivocally supported the equality and workplace inclusion of the employee with a disability. Findings suggest intervention strategies to promote inclusion in the integrated workplace.

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Publication Title

Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation