How Disabilities Affect People Seeking Employment


People with disabilities are faced with challenges that other people do not face. This is especially the case as they look for employment. Some organizations fail to hire them solely because of their disabilities even though they may perform their duties well. Even when they get employed, there is still some element of stigma that they face. This paper seeks to highlight some of the challenges that people with disabilities face as they seek employment and after they are employed. By highlighting the challenges, a viable solution is made easier to come up with. The paper concludes by recognizing that working with people with disabilities has an overall positive effect in advancing the society.

 Keywords: people with disabilities, stigma, employment  


Almost all organizations and companies seek to hire people they believe will be highly productive. This is in order to produce high quality goods and services that will assure the company of survival. However, this may pose a challenge to people with disabilities because the companies may not be confident of their ability to perform at the same level as the other employees without disabilities. It thus becomes difficult for people with disabilities to get jobs. Even those who get jobs most often have to over-prepare compared to their counterparts with no disabilities. Thus, this paper will delve into how people with disabilities find it difficult to get employed.

Difficulties They Face

Poor Education

The majority of studies indicate that only a few adults with extreme intellectual disabilities, autism or several disabilities are able to get employed in their local communities (Boeltzig, Timmons, & Butterworth, 2008). Apart from the fact that them having disabilities usually discourages potential employers from giving them jobs, another factor that inhibits them from being employed is they are usually not well advanced in their education as their potential employers would like them to be (Carter, Austin & Trainor, 2012). This is especially the case when it comes to those who do not receive specialized education due to their disabilities but instead learn in the same school system as other people. It puts them at a serious disadvantage because they do not get the attention and emphasis that they need due to their disabilities. It is expected that they take more time learning compared to their normal counterparts due to the challenges they face from their disabilities that other students do not face. Therefore, a poor foundation in education make them less likely to get employed and even if they do get employed, the roles they get may not be as well-paying as they would like them to be.  


In addition to this, some people might find it embarrassing to disclose the disabilities they have. This is especially the case when it comes to invisible disabilities, which are defined as disabilities which have no physical manifestations or whose physical manifestations are not directly linked with the disability (Santuzzi et al. 2014). Some of these invisible disabilities include HIV/AIDS, whose manifestations are usually in the form of common diseases. In order for a company to offer the right conditions for a person with any disability to comfortably work in, the employee must first disclose what his or her disability is to the company. However, this can be difficult for people suffering from disabilities such as HIV/AIDS since people tend to attach some sense of stigma to people with the disease. Thus a person suffering from the disease might fail to disclose it to the company thus making them miss out on comfortable working conditions (Santuzzi et al. 2014, p. 6). The eventual consequence after being unable to bear with the working conditions, the person quits thus becoming unemployed. On the other hand, revealing such conditions may also reduce the chances of the person being employed to a significant extent which would make it difficult to get a job.


This leads me to my next point – the stigma associated with some disabilities. Some disabilities such as most of the mental ones significantly diminish the chances of individuals attaining their life goals, in this case, their career goals. Luckily, scientists have come up with some evidence-based interventions that are effective in getting people’s lives on track to attain their goals (Corrigan, Druss & Perlick, 2014, p. 40). This is especially the case when it comes to mental disabilities (Corrigan, Druss & Perlick, 2014, p. 38). However, a majority of times people fail to seek the available treatments due to the stigma associated with mental illnesses. To some people, it is an embarrassment to suffer from certain types of mental disabilities. To understand how stigma discourages people from seeking treatment, it is important to first define it. Four factors help distinguish stigma from other social concepts: (a) it is basically a label attached to a group of people perceived to be different (b) the difference in perception given to this group is fundamentally negative (c) the perceived differences give a distinction between “us” and “them” and (d) the labels lead to discrimination (Corrigan, Druss & Perlick, 2014, p. 42). Thus, a person with mental illnesses might not seek treatment due to the fear that a potential employer might learn of this during the hiring process and, therefore, fail to hire him/her, worrying that the discrimination that he/she might face with other employees could reduce collaboration and thus productivity. 

Shortcomings in the Company

Moreover, people with disabilities face difficulties not only as they seek jobs, but also after they get them. This is because some organizations and companies may not be adequately prepared to offer the right conditions for a person with disabilities to comfortably work in. Although there has been a significant shift in recent years to make the workplace environment welcoming and comfortable for people with disabilities, not a large percentage of companies actively recruit people with disabilities (22.8 percent) (Houtenville & Kalargyrou, 2012). Some fail to provide the special equipment that is needed by some of the people with disabilities to perform their duties, others fail to provide flexible work hours for people with disabilities, others fail to assign the employees with disabilities with duties that they can manage while others are less accommodating of the medical appointments that people with disabilities might constantly need. In addition to this, it may be difficult for a person to perform his or her duties well due to the stigma they may face as I stated above. 

Lack of Companions

Moreover, since people with disabilities are usually the minority at the work place, a people with disabilities constantly lack someone they may share the experiences they go through with. This might make it difficult for the person to cope with their job at hand. The lack of emotional support may make it hard for the people with disabilities to handle work as effectively as their counterparts who have each other to turn to when they need to. This may give the management the impression that the person with disabilities is not well qualified for the job and hence he or she may get fired. Furthermore, research indicates that familiarity leads to acceptance (Vornholt, Uitdewilligen, & Nijhuis, 2013). Therefore, since the people with disabilities are usually the minority coupled that the majority of the population do not deal with people with disabilities in their lifetimes, it becomes difficult for the people with disabilities to interact with the rest of the workforce and the rest of the workforce to interact with the people with disabilities.


It is clear that people with disabilities have to overcome various challenges before they get employed. Some of these challenges include having a weak background in education which makes them weak candidates for employment, fear or shame in disclosing the disabilities they have, and stigma at the workplace. In addition to this, some companies do not provide favorable conditions that accommodate people with disabilities and the people with disabilities have few companions that can understand the challenges they go through and offer assistance. However, the society is becoming more and more accepting of the people with disabilities and more attention is being given on how they get employed and their working conditions. It is important for people to be more accepting because great things are to be achieved by working with them. 


Boeltzig, H., Timmons, J. C., & Butterworth, J. (2008). Entering work: Employment outcomes of people with developmental disabilities. International Journal of Rehabilitation Research, 31, 217–223. doi:10.1097/MRR.0b013e3282fb7ce5

Carter, E. W., Austin, D., & Trainor, A. A. (2012). Predictors of postschool employment outcomes for young adults with severe disabilities. Journal of Disability Policy Studies23(1), 50-63.

Corrigan, P. W., Druss, B. G., & Perlick, D. A. (2014). The impact of mental illness stigma on seeking and participating in mental health care. Psychological Science in the Public Interest15(2), 37-70.

Houtenville, A., & Kalargyrou, V. (2012). People with disabilities: Employers’ perspectives on recruitment practices, strategies, and challenges in leisure and hospitality. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly53(1), 40-52.

Santuzzi, A. M., Waltz, P. R., Finkelstein, L. M., & Rupp, D. E. (2014). Invisible disabilities: Unique challenges for employees and organizations. Industrial and Organizational Psychology7(2), 204-219.

Vornholt, K., Uitdewilligen, S., & Nijhuis, F. J. (2013). Factors affecting the acceptance of people with disabilities at work: a literature review. Journal of occupational rehabilitation23(4), 463-475.

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