Disability and Unemployment: An overview of the diversity, equity, and inclusion concerns of employers in Lebanon’s national Context.
Several organizations are working to solve relevant organizational issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Organizations have taken a variety of techniques to managing diversity to increase and retain workforce heterogeneity, this includes emphasis on targeted recruitment, education and training, career development, and mentorship programs (Roberson) .
Organizations use these approaches and strategies to get diverse social groups, including those with impairments, on board. Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects against discrimination based on disability. It is the most important piece of the federal legislation barring discrimination against people with disabilities as employees (Aoun and Appelbaum).
In Lebanon, the Lebanese Law 2000/220 eliminated all discriminatory sections in existing laws and replaced them with a set of penalties and incentives for hiring individuals with disabilities (Wehbi and El-Lahib). However, despite these laws protecting people with disability, over time, people with disability are said to have been faced with unjustified discrimination and segregation in the workplace, thus leading to a high rate of unemployment among persons with disabilities (Santuzzi and Waltz). The number of people living with disabilities is rapidly rising. This is attributable to a variety of factors, including changing demographics and an increase in chronic health issues. According to the (World Health Organization. and World Bank.) “Over 1 billion people live with some form of disability, and almost everyone is likely to experience some form of disability,, temporary or permanent, at some point itheir lives.fe”. This means that there are an increasing number of persons with disabilities moving into the labor market. There is a huge talent pool of persons with disabilities that are available in the labor market but are yet to be considered by employers.
There has been lack of provisions for resources, rights and services for persons with disabilities in Lebanon, as a result of inaction by the government. Hence, persons with disabilities experience boundless exclusion, discrimination, marginalization, and even violence under the custody of a wide range of state and non-state institutions and individuals. Therefore, it is paramount that the diversity and inclusion issues and challenges preventing persons with disabilities to be fully integrated in the workplace should be tackled and well-studied in order to devise ways to promote inclusive employment to persons with disabilities, companies and society. The focus of this paper is directed towards exploring the diversity, equity, and inclusion concerns of employers regarding persons with disabilities. This paper is extremely important and timely, particularly given the high rate of unemployment prevalent among persons with disabilities in Lebanon, MENA, and worldwide.
Global Outlook on Disability and Persons with Disabilities
Disability, according to the Union of the Physically Impaired against Segregation (UPIAS), is defined as the additional social barriers imposed by a society that is intolerant of individuals with disabilities. Following that, UPIAS’ focus on physical conditions was broadened to include all impairments, such as users and survivors of mental-health systems and persons with learning disabilities. According to (Einar, 189), disability is a social expression of mental or physical restriction, or a discrepancy between a person’s capacities and the constraints placed on them by their physical and social surroundings. The terms “impairment” and “disability” are conceptually distinguished in a significant way by UPIAS. Impairment is defined as ‘lacking part of or all of limb, having a defective limb, organ or mechanism of the body’, while disability is defined as “the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a contemporary social organization which takes no or little account of people who have physical impairments and thus excludes them from participation in the mainstream of social activities” (Retief and Letšosa, 3).
The World Health Organization (WHO) expanded the concept of disability in 2001 to include activity constraints, environmental factors, impairments, and participation restrictions (World Health Organization. and World Bank). Several barriers have been identified which contribute to limited employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, including discrimination, structural barriers to accessibility, and severity of impairment (Santuzzi and Waltz, 1117).
Diversity and Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities
According to Larkey (300), Diversity is defined as differences in perspectives that can lead to behavioral differences among cultural groups as well as identification distinctions amongst group members regarding other groups. It is “any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another” (Giovannini 22). From an organizational perspective, diversity is used to describe the diverse make-up of organizations or workforces (Roberson 6). Inclusion in the workplace is defined as the extent to which individuals can access information and resources, are involved in workgroups, and can influence decision-making processes (Roberson 6). It has been used to describe workers’ active participation and empowerment in different contexts. Inclusion is focused on the degree to which individuals feel a part of a critical organizational process (Mor-Barak and Cherin 49). According to (Nafukho et al. 12) inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workplace refers to the need to make them feel treasured, respected, supported, and appreciated for their contributions.
Without the provision of necessary accommodations for persons with disabilities in the workplace, it is natural that organizations might experience a backlash from persons with disabilities. These individuals, i.e persons with disabilities, might feel they are not treated as part of the organization hence, they will revolt against their employers and might leave their jobs, thus leading to a high turnover rate of employees with disabilities. This is because people with disabilities frequently face multiple forms of inequality in the workplace. As a result of this, Nafukho et al (2010) in their research suggested that human resource management solutions in the form of assistive technology, job modifications, and schedule alterations can create a more welcoming workplace that enables people with disabilities to not only be more productive and valuable to their employers, but also to believe that they are being treated fairly with the ensuing commitment to do their best as employees.
Divergent perception of employers regarding employees with disabilities
The transition from dependent to independent living for people with disabilities requires their active inclusion in the labor market. This has positive effects on both the individuals as socially significant units through a dramatic improvement in their quality of life, as well as on their coworkers and employers (Papakonstantinou and Papadopoulos). It is worthy of note that despite the effort of organizations to create a diverse workforce environment, most employers hold a stereotypical belief against employees with disabilities. Most managers assume that employees with disabilities are less productive than their abled counterparts (Bonaccio et al).
In Lebanon, for example, persons with disabilities are being excluded from mainstream education and employment due to the Lebanese community’s perception of people with disabilities as helpless (Wehbi and El-Lahib). Employers’ hesitation to hire people with disabilities stems from a variety of fears and concerns, the majority of which are related to misinformation about what hiring people with disabilities entails, or perhaps due to their ignorance of disabilities and the abilities and skills that these people possess. However, (Papakonstantinou and Papadopoulos) also further noted that employers with previous experience in working with persons with disabilities do not seem to confirm to the above fears or concerns, they appear to hold a positive view toward them, in case of a previously satisfactory working experience.
On the other hand my disability scholars argued that persons with disabilities are able to perform many of the same jobs persons without disabilities perform given that they are presented with the necessary accommodations.
Perceived costs of accommodating employees with disabilities
Many laws around the world, such as the American Disability Act in the USA, state that failing to offer reasonable accommodations is illegal, especially if employees reveal disabilities by requesting accommodations. Likewise, The Lebanese public law 2000/220 protecting employees with disabilities requires companies to make working environments more accessible by eliminating physical barriers to people with disabilities joining mainstream employment, but these laws are yet to be implemented and adhered to due to financial constraints (Wehbi and El-Lahib 372). However, managers’ perceptions and fears about lodging at very high costs while accommodating persons with disabilities are typically exaggerated. (Papakonstantinou and Papadopoulos 799) also noted that Employers are as well concerned that employees with impairments will reduce productivity and that hiring people with disabilities will cost them money. These are negative stereotypical beliefs held by most employers due to misinformation about what hiring persons with disabilities entails.
The literature has shown that the inclusion rate of persons with disabilities in the workplace has deteriorated. employers’ perception of persons with disability has led to the exclusion of persons with disabilities in an organizational critical decision-making process. Therefore, It is necessary to build effective corporate structures between non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local, national, and regional DPOs, and other partners to ensure that people with disabilities are not excluded from the workplace (Lockwood and Tardi 435). Furthermore, understanding which HR practices are (and will be) utilized to properly manage and support persons with disabilities across the job life cycle is crucial to promoting workplace inclusion for persons with disabilities. It is also very important that employers uphold strongly shared values and beliefs that will promote the successful inclusiveness of persons with disabilities in the workplace. This helps to illustrate why supporting people with disabilities in the workplace requires a positive and inclusive organizational culture.
References (MLA 9TH edition)
Aoun, Elie G., and Paul S. Appelbaum. “Ten Years after the ADA Amendment Act (2008): The Relationship between ADA Employment Discrimination and Substance Use Disorders.” Psychiatric Services, vol. 70, no. 7, American Psychiatric Association, 2019, pp. 596–603, https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.201800574.
Bonaccio, Silvia, et al. “The Participation of People with Disabilities in the Workplace Across the Employment Cycle: Employer Concerns and Research Evidence.” Journal of Business and Psychology, vol. 35, no. 2, Apr. 2020, pp. 135–58, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-018-9602-5.
Einar, Øverbye. “Social Inclusion of People with Disabilities. National and International Perspectives.” Nordic Journal of Human Rights, vol. 32, no. 2, Apr. 2014, pp. 188–91, https://doi.org/10.1080/18918131.2014.897013.
Giovannini, Maureen. “What Gets Measured Gets Done: Achieving Results Through Diversity and Inclusion.” The Journal for Quality and Participation; Winter, vol. 27, no. 4, 2004.
Jeanne-Marie, and Bruno. “Implementing Diversity in a Meaningful Way.” American Water Works Association. Journal, vol. 96, ProQuest Central pg. 47, 2004.
Larkey, Linda Kathryn. “The Development and Validation of the Workforce Diversity Questionnaire: An Instrument to Assess Interactions in Diverse Workgroups.” Management Communication Quarterly, vol. 9, no. 3, 1996, pp. 296–337, https://doi.org/10.1177/0893318996009003002.
Lockwood, Elizabeth, and Rachele Tardi. “The Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Development (Basingstoke), vol. 57, no. 3–4, Dec. 2014, pp. 433–37, https://doi.org/10.1057/dev.2015.29.
Mor-Barak, Michal E., and David A. Cherin. “A Tool to Expand Organizational Understanding of Workforce Diversity: Exploring a Measure of Inclusion-Exclusion.” Administration in Social Work, vol. 22, no. 1, Feb. 1998, pp. 47–64, https://doi.org/10.1300/J147v22n01_04.
Nafukho, Fredrick Muyia, et al. “Disability as a Diversity Factor: Implications for Human Resource Practices.” Advances in Developing Human Resources, vol. 12, no. 4, 2010, pp. 395–406, https://doi.org/10.1177/1523422310379209.
Papakonstantinou, Doxa, and Konstantinos Papadopoulos. “Employers’ Attitudes toward Hiring Individuals with Visual Impairments.” Disability and Rehabilitation, vol. 42, no. 6, Mar. 2020, pp. 798–805, https://doi.org/10.1080/09638288.2018.1510044.
Retief, Marno, and Rantoa Letšosa. “Models of Disability: A Brief Overview.” HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies, vol. 74, no. 1, Mar. 2018, https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i1.4738.
Roberson, Quinetta M. Disentangling the Meanings of Diversity and Inclusion. www.ilr.cornell.edu/CAHRS/.
Santuzzi, Alecia M., and Pamela R. Waltz. “Disability in the Workplace: A Unique and Variable Identity.” Journal of Management, vol. 42, no. 5, SAGE Publications Inc., 1 July 2016, pp. 1111–35, https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206315626269.
Wehbi, Samantha, and Y. El-Lahib. “The Employment Situation of People with Disabilities in Lebanon: Challenges and Opportunities.” Disability and Society, vol. 22, no. 4, June 2007, pp. 371–82, https://doi.org/10.1080/09687590701337736.
World Health Organization., and World Bank. World Report on Disability. World Health Organization, 2011.