Exploration of social integration of people with intellectual disabilities in the workplace
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The objective of the study was to explore social integration of people with intellectual disabilities (ID) in the workplace and to identify the characteristics of positive workplace culture for them. An in-depth qualitative case study was conducted at two worksites to explore the process of social integration. Sources of information included company documents, on site observations, and interviews that were conducted for the following purposes: 1. to describe employees with IDs’ perceptions and needs of social integration and their experiences of social relationships in work settings; 2. to explore co-workers’ perceptions of and relationships with employees with ID; and 3. to identify what characteristics of workplace culture contributed to or detracted from social integration for people with ID. One workplace was an educational organization where four workers with ID were employed, the other a restaurant franchise where one worker with ID was employed. The participants with ID from both worksites believed people with and without disabilities should work together and felt they were included in their workplaces. The co-workers interviewed had positive opinions of fellow employees with ID. Several characteristics of workplace culture had an impact on social integration for employees with ID, including a job structure that promotes social interactions, work pace within the work setting, group or individual employment, culture of acceptance within the work setting, and a supportive managerial approach. The results of the current study have provided strategies to enhance social integration for employees with ID, and highlighted a number of potentially beneficial workplace conditions that merit additional study. Service providers can act as advocates to help create a work environment that emphasizes acceptance and respect for workers in this population.