Employer Attitudes Toward Workers with Disabilities and their ADA Employment Rights: A Literature Review.
The ADA is the most comprehensive civil rights law protecting individuals with disabilities in employment settings to date. The present literature review focuses on four themes, including (a) employer attitudes toward workers with disabilities, (b) employer attitudes toward the ADA employment rights, (c) employer attitudes toward workers with severe disabilities who have participated in supported vocational and employment programs, and (d) the extent to which these employer attitudes differ from those reported in 1987 when this literature was last reviewed (Greenwood & Johnson, 1987; Wilgosh & Skaret, 1987).
Prior to the passage of the ADA in 1990, Wilgosh and Skaret (1987) concluded that: 1) in some cases, employer attitudes were negative and thus likely to inhibit the employment and advancement of people with disabilities; 2) prior positive contact with people with disabilities was related to favorable employer attitudes; and 3) a discrepancy existed between employers' expressed willingness to hire applicants with disabilities and their actual hiring practices. Greenwood and Johnson's (1987) review examined employer characteristics and their receptivity to hiring applicants with disabilities. The authors found that: 1) employers from larger companies reported more positive attitudes than those from smaller ones; 2) respondents with higher levels of academic attainment expressed more positive attitudes than those with lower academic attainment; and 3) employers were more likely to express positive attitudes toward individuals with physical or sensory disabilities than those with intellectual or psychiatric disabilities.
Success of the ADA employment provisions is highly contingent on the actions and attitudes of employers (Fowler & Wadsworth, 1991; Watson, 1994; Wehman, 1993). The quality and efficiency of implementation activities will depend greatly on their willingness to accept the spirit of the law. This view is affirmed by Tony Coelho, Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and one of the authors of the ADA. Mr. Coelho noted that although innovative programs, actual job opportunities, and federal and local laws are still needed, employer attitudes are now the main obstacle for people with disabilities in the employment arena (Conference Report: President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, 1997).
The present paper reviewed studies regarding employer attitudes toward workers with disabilities since the reviews by Wilgosh and Skaret (1987) and Greenwood and Johnson (1987). Specifically, this review investigated the current status of employer attitudes, the persistence of major trends from prior reviews, and the quality of the research since 1987. This review also examined studies assessing employer attitudes toward ADA employment provisions.
More specifically, this paper reviewed 37 studies that were available from 1987 through the summer of 1999. These included 30 studies published after reviews by Wilgosh and Skaret (1987) and Greenwood and Johnson (1987) and 6 unpublished doctoral dissertations. Although doctoral dissertations are committee-reviewed rather than peer-reviewed, they were included to provide a complete account of the literature. The Harris (1995) survey was also included because it is widely cited in the media as an indicator of employer views toward disability issues. In selecting studies to review, the following inclusion criteria were established: 1) studies had to assess the attitudes of employers or managers in a position to hire, terminate, or supervise employees and 2) studies had to include a measure that assessed employer attitudes toward either workers with disabilities or the employment provisions of the ADA. In general, studies that focused on university students responding to hypothetical scenarios were not included because of their questionable generalizability. However, studies of university students enrolled in upper-level or graduate-level business courses were included, for such samples are likely to represent future employers or managers.
Employer Attitudes Toward Workers with Disabilities
Since 1987, employer attitudes toward workers with disabilities have been explored primarily through three methods: 1) traditional paper-and-pencil surveys, 2) telephone and personal interviews with employers, and 3) responses to hypothetical scenarios that require employers to make hiring decisions and to rate their expectations for applicant success. The range of disabilities examined has included back pain, epilepsy, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, mental retardation, physical disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, sensory disabilities, and disabilities in general. In keeping with the recommended usage by the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities and for the sake of consistency across studies, the term "intellectual disabilities" was used in place of cognitive disabilities and mental retardation. Additionally, the term "psychiatric disabilities" was used in place of emotional disabilities.
It is important to note that there is no universal definition for the concept of attitudes (Olson & Zanna, 1993). Historically, attitudes have been defined in terms of evaluation, affect, cognition, and behavioral predisposition. Researchers have examined employer attitudes in different ways, including global attitudes toward workers with disabilities and specific attitudes toward these workers. Global attitudes are evaluative responses concerning a general topic that typically do not involve declaring planned actions or intentions. Examples of survey items that assess global attitudes include: "Equal employment opportunities should be available to disabled individuals" from the Scale of Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons (Antonak, 1982) and "It would be best for disabled people to live and work in special communities" from the Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons scale (Yuker, Block, & Campbell, 1960). In contrast, specific attitudes have a narrow scope and may include a statement of intended behavior. For instance, some studies examine participants' expressed willingness to employ workers with disabilities.
This review found that employer attitudes toward workers with disabilities differed depending on how attitudes were defined. Specifically, this review found that positive results were more apparent in studies that assessed global attitudes toward workers with disabilities (Burnham, 1991; Christman & Slaten, 1991; Colorez & Geist, 1987; Ehrhart, 1995; Kregel & Tomiyasu, 1994; Levy, Jessop, Rimmerman, Francis, & Levy, 1993; Levy, Jessop, Rimmerman, & Levy, 1992; Weisenstein & Koshman, 1991). In contrast, negative results were more evident in studies that assessed more specific attitudes toward workers with disabilities (Bordieri, Drehmer, & Comninel, 1988; Cooper, 1995; Diksa & Rogers, 1996; John & McLellan, 1988; Johnson, Greenwood, & Schriner, 1988; Kanter, 1988; McFarlin, Song, & Sonntag, 1991; Millington, Szymanski, & Hanley-Maxwell, 1994; Pettijohn, 1991; Schloss & Soda, 1989; Tobias, 1990).
These findings suggest that there appears to be a veneer of employer acceptance of workers with disabilities. In other words, it has become socially appropriate for employers to espouse positive global attitudes toward these individuals. Given past indications of pity and sympathy toward those with disabilities and the lack of acknowledgment regarding their capacity for productivity and gainful employment, these positive views represent a step forward (Harris, 1991; Wilgosh & Skaret, 1987). However, when asked more specifically about the employment of people with disabilities, employers appear, at best, conflicted. For example, in response to survey items and hypothetical scenarios, employers are less likely to endorse the hiring of people with disabilities when compared to those without disabilities. Thus, their global acceptance of these workers seems superficial and is likely not indicative of significant efforts to employ them.
Studies Indicating Positive Employer Attitudes
Eight studies indicated that numerous types of employers hold positive global attitudes toward workers with varying disabilities (see Table 1). A national survey of Fortune 500 executives revealed positive attitudes toward the employment of people with severe disabilities, including those with psychiatric disabilities, autism, moderate to severe intellectual disabilities, and multiple disabilities (Levy et al., 1992). In a similar study of smaller companies, results also indicated positive attitudes (Levy et al., 1993), with participants viewing workers with severe disabilities as dependable, productive, and able to interact with others (particularly when appropriate support services are provided).
Studies That Typically Assessed Global and Reported Positive Employer Attitudes Toward Workers with Disabilities
Study n and type of participants Levy et al., 341 national Fortune 500 1992 executives of industrial & service corporations Levy et al., 418 local employers of 1993 industrial & service companies Ehrhart, 373 national managers of 1995 manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, business/legal/ engineering services, education/ health/social services, & government Kregel & 170 local managers of retail, Tomiyasu, manufacturing, services, & 1994 government businesses Weisenstein & 78 local employers of service & Koshman, retail businesses 1991 Burnham, 90 local employers 1991 118 service providers (vocational rehabilitation personnel & vocational resource educators) 130 special education students Christman & 120 local employers of industry, Slaten, 1991 business, health, & education Colorez & 60 local rehabilitation employers Geist, 1987 (directors of rehabilitation agencies & private nonprofit facilities cooperating with a rehabilitation counseling program) 18 local general employers (personnel directors) Study Approximate Type of disability company size investigated Levy et al., 7,500 Severe disabilities 1992 employees (including psychosis, autism, moderate to severe mental retardation, & multiple disabilities) Levy et al., over half had Severe disabilities 1993 less than 100 employees Ehrhart, 25 to over Disabilities in general 1995 1000 employees Kregel & 1 to 249 Disabilities in general Tomiyasu, employees 1994 Weisenstein & not reported Disabilities in general Koshman, 1991 Burnham, not reported Disabilities in general 1991 Christman & not reported Physical Slaten, 1991 Colorez & not reported Amputation & Geist, 1987 epilepsy Study Research procedure (s) Levy et al., Surveys: 1992 1) Attitudes Toward the Employ- ability of Persons with Severe Handicaps Scale (Schmelkin & Berkell, 1989) 2) Attitudes Toward Disabled Per- sons Scale (Yuker & Block, 1986) Levy et al., Surveys: 1993 1) Attitudes Toward the Employ- ability of Persons with Severe Handicaps Scale (Schmelkin & Berkell, 1989) 2) Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons Scale (Yuker & Block, 1986) Ehrhart, Worker Scale (Kregel & 1995 Tomiyasu, 1992) Kregel & 1) Scale of Attitudes Toward Tomiyasu, Workers with Disabilities 1994 (Kregel & Tomiyasu, 1992) 2) Interview Weisenstein & Quasi-experimental design: Koshman, 31 experimental & 47 control 1991 group 1) Survey created by authors regarding worker traits deemed necessary for successful employment Burnham, Survey created by author: 1991 Successful Employment Survey Christman & Quasi-experimental design: Slaten, 1991 80 experimental & 40 comparison group l) Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons Scale (Yuker et al., 1970) 2) Survey created by authors regarding the employment & man- agerial potential of workers with disabilities 3) Video simulations Colorez Surveys: & Geist, 1) Attitudes Toward Disabled 1987 Persons Scale (Yuker et al., 1960) 2) Scale of Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons (Antonak, 1981) 3) Modified survey regarding hiring people with disabilities (Rickard et al., 1963
Several studies that assessed disabilities in general found favorable perceptions toward workers with disabilities. Ehrhart's (1995) national survey of managers and Kregel and Tomiyasu's (1994) study of local employers both indicated positive employer attitudes. Weisenstein and Koshman (1991) found that ratings of worker traits deemed necessary for successful employment did not differ significantly when local employers responded to surveys targeting workers with and without disabilities. Burnham (1991) also found no significant differences in ratings for successful employment for workers with and without disabilities among: 1) local employers, 2) service providers, and 3) students classified with either a mild intellectual or learning disability.
Regarding physical disabilities, Christman and Slaten (1991) found that local managers rated applicants who used wheelchairs and crutches higher on a scale of employment personality characteristics in comparison to applicants without these disabilities. With respect to employers' recommendations for hiring, applicants who used crutches were rated significantly higher than applicants without physical disabilities. Colorez and Geist (1987) found the attitudes of general employers toward workers with an amputation or epilepsy to be moderately positive and thus as favorable as those of rehabilitation employers.
In sum, these studies indicated that employers from a diverse group of American workplaces (Fortune 500 executives, national managers, local managers, rehabilitation employers and local personnel directors) endorsed positive attitudes toward workers with disabilities. Furthermore, these positive views were evident for workers with different types of disabilities, including epilepsy, physical disabilities, severe disabilities, and disabilities in general. Researchers also found these positive attitudes with a number of different methods, including standardized measures of attitudes, researcher-created attitude scales, interviews, and video simulations. Commonalities among most of these studies included: l) assessment of global attitudes, 2) use of local employer samples, 3) focus on disabilities in general without specifying a particular kind of disability, and 4) use of standardized scales.
It is significant to note that Christman and Slaten (1991) found very favorable employer attitudes in a quasi-experimental study that assessed specific attitudes toward workers with disabilities (namely, the behavioral intent to hire applicants with physical disabilities). This positive finding is noteworthy because studies that examined the expressed willingness to hire persons with disabilities usually yielded more negative employer attitudes in this literature review. However, the Christman and Slaten study was the only experimental or quasi-experimental investigation that used video simulations of workers with disabilities; other studies relied on written scenarios (Bordieri et al., 1998; Millington et al., 1994; Schloss & Soda, 1989; Weisenstein & Koshman, 1991). Perhaps viewing videos of applicants with disabilities had a more direct and realistic impact compared to reading scenarios about these individuals.
Studies Indicating Negative Employer Attitudes
Eleven studies indicated negative employer attitudes (see Table 2). Most of these studies assessed specific attitudes toward workers with disabilities. A national survey of Fortune 500 personnel executives revealed negative views toward the employment of workers with disabilities (McFarlin et al., 1991). Concerns included the promotability of these workers and the cost of accommodating their needs. More positive views were expressed concerning their turnover, absenteeism, and performance. Johnson et al. (1988) found local employers had doubts about the work-related skills of people with disabilities (such as, flexibility, productivity, and promotability). Their work-related personality attributes were also questioned, including their ability to benefit from instruction, the amount of supervision demanded, the extent supervisors were sought for help, work-role acceptance, and work tolerance. Tobias' (1990) indicated that local business people expressed more conservative opinions about hiring workers with disabilities than did supervisors from a non-profit educational institution.
Studies That Typically Assessed Specific and Reported Negative Employer Attitudes Toward Workers with Disabilities
Study n and type of participants McFarlin et al., 189 national Fortune 500 1991 personnel executives Johnson et al., 100 local employers of 1988 manufacturing, service, & wholesale-retail firms Tobias, 1989 76 local employers of manufacturing firms Millington et al., 296 local employers of 1994 manufacturing industries & financial institutions Schloss & Soda, 80 local managers of fast-food 1989 restaurants, retail shops, & franchise stores Kanter, 1988 147 local managers of hotels, motels food service, restaurants, retail, manufacturing, and service industries John & McLellan, 52 personnel officers & company 1988 managers of manufacturing, retail, & transportation firms Cooper, 5 local employers of communication, 1995 energy supply finance, & distribution companies Diksa & Rogers, 373 local employers of manufacturing, 1996 transportation, communi- cation, utilities, wholesale, retail finance, insurance, real estate, services, social services, & public administration firms Pettijohn, 142 local employers of marketing, 1991 service, & manufacturing companies Bordieri et al., 108 local supervisors & middle 1988 managers enrolled in a MBA course Study Approximate Type of disability company size investigated McFarlin et al., 41,000 Disabilities in general 1991 employees Johnson et al., 84% had less Disabilities in general 1988 than 100 employees Tobias, 1989 from less than Disabilities in general 15 to more than 100 employees Millington et al., not reported Intellectual disabilities 1994 Schloss & Soda, 9 employees Intellectual disabilities 1989 Kanter, 1988 from less than Intellectual disabilities 10 to more than 200 employees John & McLellan, from less than Epilepsy 1988 50 to more than 1000 employees Cooper, 450 to 18,000 Epilepsy 1995 employees Diksa & Rogers, 20 or more Psychiatric disabilities 1996 employees Pettijohn, not reported Learning disabilities 1991 Bordieri et al., not reported Back pain 1988 Study Research procedure (s) McFarlin et al., Survey created by authors regarding 1991 workers with disabilities & their integration into the workforce Johnson et al., 1) Survey created by authors regard- 1988 ing work performance & work personality attributes of workers with disabilities 2) Interview Tobias, 1989 1) Gardner and Warren's (1978) Different Situations Inventory (as cited in Tobias, 1989) 2) American Training & Research Associates' (1980) Employee Opinionnaire (as cited in Tobias, 1989) Millington et al., Experimental design: 1994 183 experimental & 113 control group Survey created by authors: The Employment Selection Concerns Questionnaire Schloss & Soda, Quasi-experimental design: 1989 40 experimental & 40 comparison group Survey created by authors regarding intrusiveness of employment training & expectations for worker success Kanter, 1988 1) Prognostic Beliefs Scale (Siperstein & Wolraich, 1984) 2) Items assessing attitudes & hiring intention in response to 4 hypotheti- cal scenarios John & McLellan, 1) Survey created by authors regard- 1988 ing employer attitudes toward will- ingness to employ people with dis- abilities, insurance liability, etc. 2) Interview Cooper, Interview 1995 Diksa & Rogers, Survey created by authors: 1996 Employer Attitude Questionnaire Pettijohn, Modified version of the Community 1991 Survey Instrument (Minskoff, Soutter, Hoffman & Hawks, 1987) Bordieri et al., Experimental design: 1988 72 experimental & 36 control group; Survey created by authors regarding personnel selection
Studies addressing intellectual disabilities revealed mixed to negative attitudes. Millington et al. (1994) found local employers had lower expectations of workers with intellectual disabilities in comparison to workers without intellectual disabilities for entry-level positions. Schloss and Soda (1989) found that local employers' expectations for applicant success were significantly more negative for those with intellectual disabilities than for those without such disabilities. Specifically, these employers were concerned about the ability of these employees to interact appropriately with co-workers, customers, and management. Kanter's (1988) study of personnel managers indicated conflicted views. Participants responded to four hypothetical scenarios involving: 1) workers with intellectual disabilities who had lived in the community; 2) workers with intellectual disabilities who had been formerly institutionalized; 3) workers who were high school dropouts; and 4) workers who were high school graduates. Workers with intellectual disabilities who had lived in the community and high school dropouts obtained the most positive evaluative attitude scores. However, workers with intellectual disabilities who had lived in the community obtained a significantly higher hiring intention score than workers with intellectual disabilities who had been formerly institutionalized. This score difference existed despite the fact that both groups were described as having lived on their own and having obtained training through sheltered work programs.
Epilepsy studies also revealed mixed reactions toward the employment of people with this disability. John and McLellan (1988) found that fewer jobs were available for individuals with epilepsy than for those with a heart condition, loss of an eye or leg, diabetes, or chronic bronchitis. Additionally, personnel officers and company managers tended to have misconceptions about this condition, including the erroneous belief that epilepsy is related to reduced intelligence. Cooper (1995) found that one employer had a worker with epilepsy retire for medical reasons because of complaints from co-workers, while another employer retained such a worker even though the number of seizures had increased for several months. Although all interviewees recognized that attitudes greatly influence job opportunities for those with epilepsy, related-awareness training for hiring staff varied greatly, from mandatory to no training at all.
Several studies targeting other specific disabilities indicated employer concern. Diksa and Rogers (1996) found local employers concerned about the symptomatology of workers with psychiatric disabilities, including symptoms, behavioral manifestations of the disability, and effects of medication. In Pettijohn's (1991) research, the majority of employers felt that workers with learning disabilities were of average to above average in intelligence and could perform entry-level jobs well. However, when asked whether they would hire these workers, employers answered maybe (depending upon the kind and severity of the disability). Finally, Bordieri et al.'s (1988) investigation indicated that applicants with low back pain were less likely to be hired than applicants without this disability.
As a whole, this group of studies indicated that managers and executives whose organizations varied greatly in size and purpose expressed numerous concerns about employing persons with a wide variety of disabilities. Furthermore, these concerns were evident in studies that used a number of different measures and methods. Similar to the group of studies that found positive attitudes, these studies tended to sample managers of mostly small to medium-sized businesses. Unlike the studies that found positive attitudes, these studies were less likely to focus on disabilities in general. Instead, specific disabilities (including intellectual disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, epilepsy, learning disabilities, and low back pain) were generally the focus of studies that yielded negative attitudes. Also, unlike studies that found positive attitudes, these studies tended to assess more specific attitudes toward workers with disabilities, such as the expressed willingness to hire them (Bordieri et al., 1988; John & McLellan, 1988; Kanter, 1988; Pettijohn, 1991; Tobias, 1990). Lastly, these studies relied more heavily on questionnaires developed by the authors and, in general, limited information was presented regarding the reliability and validity their measures.
Employer Attitudes Toward the ADA Employment Provisions
Consistent with the pattern found in studies of attitudes toward workers with disabilities, a review of ten studies of attitudes toward disability rights revealed employers espoused general support for the ADA. However, when these studies examined the more specific and relevant employment title, employers typically expressed concern (see Table 3). Satcher and Hendren (1992) found moderate acceptance of the ADA among local employers. However, their support for employment rights was significantly lower than for transportation, telecommunications, and public services and accommodations rights. In a similar study of university students enrolled in personnel management courses, the authors again found moderate acceptance of the ADA, with support for employment rights rated less favorably than for public services and accommodations rights (Satcher & Hendren, 1991).
Studies That Assessed Employer Attitudes Toward the Employment Provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (mixed to positive attitudes reported)
Study n and type of participants Satcher & 250 local employers of sales, Hendren, 1992 manufacturing, & service establishments Satcher & 131 university students enrolled in Hendren, 1991 personnel management courses Moore & 178 local private sector representatives Crimando, 1995 (consisting of company presidents, vice- presidents, & directors of service & manufac- turing firms); 186 individuals with disabilities; & 164 rehabilitation service providers Walters & 69 local employers; 19 recruiters (university Baker, 1997 job fair); & 12 recruiters (disability job fair) of sales, service, manufacturing, food industry, & healthcare establishments Roessler & 83 national personnel & human resource Sumner, 1997 representatives of manufacturing, financial services, & retail establishments Gilbride et al., 80 local human resource directors 1992 Callahan, 1994(*) 408 human resource & general managers Harris, 1995(*) 404 national senior executives (consist- ing of senior vice-presidents to top equal employment opportunity managers) Kregel & 170 local employers of retail, Tomiyasu, 1994(*) manufacturing, services, & government businesses Scheid, 1999(*) 117 local human resource managers & personnel directors of mostly retail, trade, manufacturing, health services, & government establishments Study Approximate company size Satcher & Hendren, 1992 73% had less than 49 employees Satcher & Hendren, 1991 not applicable Moore & 63% had more than Crimando, 1995 25 employees Walters & 1 to 14 full-time (41%) & Baker, 1997 1 to 14 part-time (56%) employees Roessler & 57% had more than Sumner, 1997 500 employees Gilbride et al., 752 employees 1992 Callahan, 1994(*) From 15 to over 300,000 employees Harris, 1995(*) From 50 to over 10,000 employees Kregel & 1 to 249 employees Tomiyasu, 1994(*) Scheid, 1999(*) From less than 100 to more than 1000 employees Study Research procedure (s) Satcher & Americans with Disabilities Act Survey Hendren, 1992 (Satcher & Hendren, 1991) Satcher & Survey created by authors: Hendren, 1991 Americans with Disabilities Act Survey Moore & Survey created by authors: Crimando, 1995 ADA Employment Inventory Walters & Survey created by authors: Baker, 1997 Acceptance of Individuals Scale Roessler & Survey created by authors regarding Sumner, 1997 perceptions of reasonable accommodations Gilbride et al., Telephone survey consisting of 10 employ- 1992 ment related ADA items created by authors Callahan, 1994(*) Survey created by author regarding beliefs, attitudes, & opinions about the ADA Harris, 1995(*) Telephone interview Kregel & 1) Scale of Attitudes Toward Workers with Tomiyasu, 1994(*) Disabilities (Kregel & Tomiyasu, 1992) 2) Interview Scheid, 1999(*) Telephone interview
Note. (*) These studies indicated positive employer attitudes.
Moore and Crimando (1995) found that although three groups of research participants (private sector representatives, rehabilitation service providers, and persons with disabilities) agreed that the ADA would be an effective law for the next five years, private sector representatives felt least strongly about this statement. Furthermore, private sector representatives were the most concerned about the cost of workplace modifications. In another group comparison study, Walters and Baker (1996) investigated acceptance of the ADA among: 1) local employers; 2) employers/recruiters who participated at a university career day; and 3) employers/recruiters who participated at a disability job fair conference. Although participants were moderately accepting of the ADA, they had misgivings about the costs of accommodations and misinformation about this law.
Roessler and Sumner (1997) found that although national human resource representatives were favorably disposed to a variety of accommodations (including, flexible scheduling, assistive/adaptive equipment, and special parking), they were also concerned about the costs of accommodations, the interference of accommodations with typical work schedules, and worker productivity. Similarly, Gilbride, Stensrud, and Connolly (1992) found that human resource directors had concerns with: 1) job restructuring and accommodations; 2) cost effective job and task restructuring; and 3) impact on workers' compensation claims.
Four studies revealed more positive attitudes toward the ADA employment provisions. Callahan (1994) found that human resource and general managers agreed with the basic intent of the ADA. The majority did not believe that the ADA would either adversely affect their companies' ability to compete or result in high costs and few benefits. Areas of concern were related to the case-by-case interpretation of this law, the vagueness of certain concepts (such as "reasonable accommodation" and "undue hardship"), and the potential for increased litigation costs for employers. A Harris (1995) national survey of senior executives also revealed strong support for the ADA, with 70% indicating that this law should not be changed. Of the sample, 81% had made workplace accommodations, and 56% had established policies or programs for hiring people with disabilities. However, the percentage of companies that had actually hired people with disabilities increased only slightly from 62% in 1986 to 64% in 1995. Primary reasons given for not hiring people with disabilities included a lack of qualified applicants (61%) and an absence of job openings/a hiring freeze (53%).
Kregel and Tomiyasu (1992) examined local employers' awareness and perception of laws and policies concerning the employment of people with disabilities. Of the sample, 96% were aware that the ADA prohibits employer discrimination against people with disabilities, and over three-fourths agreed with the intent of the law. Lastly, Scheid (1999) examined ADA compliance among local human resource managers and personnel directors, with a particular focus on the employment of those with psychiatric disabilities. Over one-third of the companies had a Title I implementation plan, 15% had specific policies for employing those with psychiatric disabilities, and 38% had hired an individual with a psychiatric disability since 1992.
Taken together, in six of ten studies, employers and human resource personnel from a diverse group of American workplaces expressed mixed views toward disability rights. Respondents were positive about general issues that did not appear to have major action or direct cost implications (such as, global attitudes toward the ADA and ADA rights that appeared less costly to implement). In contrast, they were more negative about specific issues that they perceived as complex and costly (such as, accommodating workers with disabilities and the potential threat of legal sanctions). In general, authors developed their own questionnaires and interviews to assess these attitudes and they reported limited psychometric information related to their measures.
Employer Attitudes Toward Workers with Disabilities Placed by Vocational or Employment Programs
Nine articles reported positive employer attitudes toward workers with disabilities who were placed by vocational, employment, or supported-employment programs (see Table 4). These studies typically assessed specific attitudes with surveys developed by the authors. Cooper's (1991) survey of local employers who had accepted individuals with mild intellectual disabilities from a vocational program revealed favorable attitudes toward this group. Eigenbrood and Retish (1988) found local employers in a work experience program for students with intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, and mild behavior disorders were positive about the employability of these students and a large percentage expressed a willingness to hire them.
Studies That Assessed Specific Employer Attitudes Toward Workers with Disabilities from Vocational/Employment Programs: All Reported Positive Attitudes
Study n and type of participants Cooper, 91 local employers of light 1991 industrial, retail, service, insur- ance, recreation, & rental firms Eigenbrood & 38 local employers or supervisors Retish, 1988 of mostly service establishments Cook et al., 38 local placement employers & 1994 24 employer-comparison group (presidents, executives, & managers) Wilgosh & 34 local placement employers & Mueller, 1989 48 employer-comparison group of services, wholesale, retail, finance, insurance, & real estate firms (mostly executives and managers) Shafer et al., 78 local job-coached employers 1987(*) 95 job-placement employers 88 unaided employers of service-related & skilled industries Nietupski et al., 44 local placement employers & 1996(*) 53 non-placement employers of banks, credit unions, grocery stores, and retail stores Petty & Fussell, 47 local employers of food 1997(*) service, industrial, retail, & health care establishments Kregel & Unger, 46 local managers of retail, 1993(*) manufacturing, wholesale, & service establishments Sandys, 1994(*) 18 local employers of manufacturing & service organizations Study Approximate Type of disability company size investigated Cooper, from 10 to 53 Mild intellectual 1991 employees disabilities Eigenbrood & not reported Special education stu- Retish, 1988 dents (learning disabilities, mild behavior disorders, and mild to moderate intellectual disabilities) Cook et al., not reported Psychiatric disabilities 1994 Wilgosh & 2 to 4000 Mental disabilities Mueller, 1989 employees (type of disability was not specified) Shafer et al., less than 10 Intellectual disabilities 1987(*) to over 42 employees Nietupski et less than 25 Supported employees et al., 1996(*) to over 100 (defined as those with employees disabilities so severe as to preclude employment without assistance) Petty & Fussell, 3 to 350 Severe intellectual & 1997(*) employees physical disabilities Kregel & Unger, not reported Intellectual disabilities 1993(*) Sandys, 1994(*) not reported Intellectual disabilities Study Research procedure (s) Cooper, Survey created by author regarding 1991 the employment potential of workers with disabilities Eigenbrood & 1) Survey created by authors regard Retish, 1988 ing the employability of individuals with disabilities & employer satisfac- tion with the work experience 2) Interview Cook et al., 1) Scale of Attitudes Toward 1994 Disabled Persons (Antonak, 1982) 2) Scale developed by Shafer et al. (1987) establishment type was not reported to measure attitudes toward employees with intellectual disabilities 3) Scale developed by Combs & Omvig (1986) to measure perceptions regarding the ease of accommodating persons with disabilities Wilgosh & Abbreviated version of a scale Mueller, 1989 developed by Etter (1982) to measure attitudes toward hiring workers with disabilities Shafer et al., Survey created by authors regarding 1987(*) the performance of workers with intellectual disabilities Nietupski et al., Survey created by authors regarding 1996(*) potential supported employment benefits and concerns Petty & Fussell, 1) Interview 1997(*) 2) Scale of Employer Attitudes Toward Workers with Disabilities (Kregel & Tomiyasu, 1992) 3) Additional survey items created by authors regarding familiarity and views toward supported employment Kregel & Unger, 1) Survey created by authors to mea- 1993(*) sure attitudes toward supported employment practices 2) Interview Sandys, 1994(*) In-depth qualitative interview
Note. (*) These studies assessed attitudes toward workers with disabilities from supported employment programs.
Cook, Razzano, Straiton, and Ross (1994) found that local employers who had hired people with psychiatric disabilities expressed more positive reactions to accommodating their needs than employers who did not have this experience. Placement employers also expressed more favorable attitudes toward working directly with these individuals than nonplacement employers. Another group comparison study revealed that local employers who had accepted trainees with mental disabilities expressed more favorable attitudes toward hiring these individuals than employers who had refused to hire them (Wilgosh & Mueller, 1989).
All studies related to supported-employment programs (whereby workers obtain training and support from a job coach in order to adequately perform their jobs) indicated positive attitudes toward these workers. Shafer, Hill, Seyfarth, and Wehman (1987) compared the views of three groups who had hired workers with intellectual disabilities. These groups consisted of local employers who received: 1) supported-employment services; 2)job placement services; and 3) no known services. Employers were generally satisfied with the performance of workers with intellectual disabilities, with those receiving supported-employment services expressing the most satisfaction. Similarly, another group comparison study revealed that local employers who had hired supported workers viewed supported employment more positively than those who did not have this experience (Nietupski, Hamre-Nietupski, VanderHart, & Fishback, 1996). Petty and Fussell (1997) found that local employers who had participated in supported-employment programs held extremely positive attitudes toward the employment potential of these workers. All respondents indicated that they would recommend such programs to other employers. In particular, the presence of employment specialists at job sites was viewed as a strength. Kregel and Unger (1993) found favorable attitudes toward the employment potential of supported employees. Lastly, Sandys (1994) found a very high level of satisfaction with supported employees. Local employers perceived them to be hardworking, reliable, and productive.
As a whole, these nine studies provided evidence that employers hold favorable attitudes toward workers with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities, especially when appropriate support provisions are made. These positive findings were found consistently across a variety of businesses who hire primarily those with less accepted disabilities (e.g., intellectual and psychiatric disabilities). This finding is significant in light of research that indicated greater employer concern toward workers with these disabilities (Greenwood & Johnson, 1987).
Persistence of Major Trends Found in Prior Reviews
Several trends identified by prior reviews (Greenwood & Johnson, 1987; Wilgosh & Skaret, 1987) are supported by recent studies (see Table 5). In their review, Wilgosh and Skater (1987) found that employers held mixed attitudes toward workers with disabilities. As noted earlier, recent studies continued to support this trend of more positive global and less positive specific attitudes. Second, Wilgosh and Skaret concluded that prior positive contact with people with disabilities was related to favorable employer attitudes. This trend was corroborated by six recent investigations (Diksa & Rogers, 1996; Hutchins, 1990; Kanter, 1988; Levy et al., 1993; Levy et al., 1992; McFarlin et al., 1991). Only two of eight studies (Ehrhart, 1995; Tobias, 1990) failed to support this finding. Furthermore, prior contact with workers with disabilities also influenced employers' acceptance of the ADA (Scheid, 1999; Waiters & Baker, 1996), although such contact was not predictive in two early studies of ADA acceptance (Satcher & Hendren, 1991; 1992).
Table 5 Major trends: Old and New
Major trends found in prior Current trends reviews 1) Employers held mixed When global attitudes were attitudes toward workers with assessed, employers were likely disabilities to express positive attitudes (Wilgosh & Skaret, 1987). (Burnham, 1991; Christman & Slaten, 1991; Colorez & Geist, 1987; Ehrhart, 1995; Kregel & Tomiyasu, 1994; Levy et al., 1993; Levy et al., 1992; Weisenstein & Koshman, 1991). When more specific attitudes were assessed, employers were likely to express negative attitudes (Bordieri et al., 1988; Cooper, 1995; Diksa & Rogers, 1996; John & McLellan, 1988; Johnson et al., 1988; Kanter, 1988; McFarlin et al., 1991; Millington et al., 1994; Pettijohn, 1991; Schloss & Soda, 1989; Tobias, 1990). 2) Prior positive contact with This trend for a positive effect people with disabilities was of prior contact continues (Diksa related to favorable employer & Rogers, 1996; Hutchins, 1990; attitudes toward workers with Kanter, 1988; Levy et al., 1993; disabilities (Wilgosh Levy et al., 1992; McFarlin et & Skaret, 1987). al., 1991). Two studies (Ehrhart, 1995; Tobias, 1990) failed to support this finding. 3) A discrepancy existed between Although this discrepancy employers' expressed willingness continues, it also appears to be to hire applicants with diminishing (Cooper, 1991; disabilities and their actual Eigenbrood & Retish, 1988; hiring (Wilgosh & Skaret, 1987). Scheid, 1999). 4) A preferential hierarchy This trend for a preferential based on disability type hierarchy continues (Callahan, existed, whereby employers were 1994; Hutchins, 1990; Johnson more likely to express positive, et al., 1988; Jones et al., 1991; attitudes toward individuals Scheid, 1999). with physical or sensory disabilities than those with intellectual or psychiatric ones (Greenwood & Johnson, 1987). 5) Employers of larger companies This trend appears to be reported more positive attitudes diminishing. Of nine studies toward workers with disabilities that investigated this variable than those of smaller ones (Ehrhart, 1995; Hutchins, 1990; (Greenwood & Johnson, 1987). John & McLellan, 1988; Kregel & Tomiyasu, 1994; Levy et al., 1993; Levy et al., 1992; McFarlin et al., 1991; Nietupski et al., 1996; Tobias, 1990), four supported this trend (Hutchins, 1990; John & McLellan, 1988; Levy et al., 1993; Nietupski et al., 1996), with the five remaining studies finding no attitude difference based on company size. 6) Employers with higher levels This trend appears to be of academic attainment diminishing. Of five studies expressed more favorable that examined this variable attitudes toward workers with (Christman & Slaten, 1991; disabilities than those with Hutchins, 1990; Levy et al., lower academic attainment 1993; Levy et al., 1992; Tobias, (Greenwood & Johnson, 1987). 1990), two studies corroborated this finding (Levy et al., 1993; Tobias, 1990).
7) Consistent with the pattern found in studies related to attitudes toward workers with disabilities, a review of ten studies that examined global attitudes toward disability rights revealed that employers espoused general support for the ADA. However, the employment title of the ADA evoked concern (Gilbride et al., 1992; Moore & Crimando, 1995; Roessler & Sumner, 1997; Satcher & Hendren, 1991; 1992; Walters & Baker, 1997). Four studies revealed more uniformly positive attitudes toward the ADA employment provisions (Callahan, 1994; Harris, 1995; Kregel & Tomiyasu, 1992; Scheid, 1999).
8) An examination of nine articles concerning workers with disabilities who were placed by vocational, employment or supported employment programs revealed positive employer attitudes toward these workers (Cook et al., 1994; Cooper, 1991; Eigenbrood & Retish, 1988; Kregel & Unger, 1993; Nietupski et al., 1996; Petty & Fussell, 1997; Sandys, 1994; Shafer et al., 1987; Wilgosh & Mueller, 1989).
Lastly, Wilgosh and Skaret (1987) found that a discrepancy existed between employers' expressed willingness to hire applicants with disabilities and their actual hiring. Three studies suggested that this discrepancy continues, though it appears to be diminishing, particularly among employers who were participants of vocational and supported-employment programs. Eigenbrood and Retish (1988) found that 87% of the sample expressed a willingness to hire special education students, with 32% of the sample actually employing such a worker. Scheid (1999) found that 50% of the companies surveyed thought they would make greater efforts to hire workers with psychiatric disabilities in the next three years, and 38% of the sample actually had hired such an employee since 1992. Cooper (1991) found that 65% of employers reported that students from a transitional vocational program had necessary work skills, with 57% of them offering employment to such a worker.
In their literature review, Greenwood and Johnson (1987) found that a preferential hierarchy based on disability type existed, whereby employers were more likely to express positive attitudes toward individuals with physical or sensory disabilities than those with intellectual or psychiatric ones. Recent studies indicated that this trend continues. Johnson et al. (1988) found that employers expressed fewest concerns about workers with physical disabilities when compared to those with intellectual, psychiatric, and communication disabilities. Although employer attitudes were not the focal point of a national survey of Fortune 500 companies' policies concerning workers with psychiatric disorders, Jones, Gallagher, Kelley, and Massari (1991) found employers perceived workers with physical disabilities as more desirable than those with psychiatric conditions. Similarly, Hutchins (1990) reported that workers with physical disabilities were viewed more positively than those with severe intellectual disabilities and multiple disabilities. Lastly, Callahan (1994) and Scheid (1999) found that employers expressed more comfort with workers with physical disabilities than those with intellectual or psychiatric disabilities.
Greenwood and Johnson (1987) also found that employers of larger companies reported more positive attitudes than those of smaller ones. Of nine studies in the present review that investigated this variable (Ehrhart, 1995; Hutchins, 1990; John & McLellan, 1988; Kregel & Tomiyasu, 1994; Levy et al., 1993; Levy et al., 1992; McFarlin et al., 1991; Nietupski et al., 1996; Tobias, 1990), only four supported this trend (Hutchins, 1990; John & McLellan, 1988; Levy et al., 1993; Nietupski et al., 1996), with the remaining studies finding no attitude difference based on company size. Callahan (1994) did find that company size influenced perception of the ADA employment provisions, with managers from small companies expressing more concern about this law than those from medium and large companies.
Lastly, Greenwood and Johnson (1987) concluded that employers with higher levels of academic attainment expressed more favorable attitudes than those with lower academic attainment. This trend appears to be diminishing as well. Of five studies that examined this variable (Christman & Slaten, 1991; Hutchins, 1990; Levy et al., 1993; Levy et al., 1992; Tobias, 1990), two studies corroborated this finding (Levy et al., 1993; Tobias, 1990). Of two studies that examined attitudes toward the ADA and academic attainment (Satcher & Hendren, 1992; Walters & Baker, 1996), only the Walters and Baker study supported this trend.
Summary of Research Findings and Directions for Future Research
This review provides evidence that from 1987 to mid-1999 employers have expressed positive global attitudes toward workers with disabilities. Although this support reflects progress, studies also indicate that employers are less positive when more specific attitudes toward these workers are assessed. Moreover, this pattern of global acceptance tempered by specific concerns is evident in studies related to the ADA and disability rights. This review found that although employers are supportive of the ADA as a whole, the employment provisions in particular evoke misgivings.
To date, it is unclear to what extent employer attitudes toward workers with disabilities (and their ADA employment rights) stem from personal experiences, lack of information, or from global myths and stereotypes. Researchers need to address the source of these views. This knowledge would expand our understanding of these attitudes and perhaps allow for the development of more effective informational and experiential strategies for change. It is also unclear to what extent these attitudes generalize to actual employment settings. Since 1987, no studies were identified that directly observed employers' actual hiring practices. Future studies need to observe actual hiring practices in employment settings and their relation to attitudes and behavioral intent.
Recent research continues to support some of the trends identified by prior reviews (Greenwood & Johnson, 1987; Wilgosh & Skaret, 1987). First, employers reporting prior positive contact with workers with disabilities continue to hold favorable attitudes toward this group (Diksa & Rogers, 1996; Hutchins, 1990; Kanter, 1988; Levy et al., 1993; Levy et al., 1992; McFarlin et al., 1991). At this time, it is unknown whether positive attitudes resulted from the contact or whether they existed prior to these work experiences. One would suspect that both factors interact with each other over time. However, longitudinal studies are needed to provide further insight into factors that influence long-term attitude change.
Second, the expressed willingness to hire applicants with disabilities continues to exceed employers' actual hiring (Cooper, 1991; Eigenbrood & Retish, 1988; Scheid, 1999). However, there is noteworthy evidence that this gap may be narrowing, particularly among employers with prior work contact with this group in vocational and supported-employment programs. This substantial narrowing of the expressed attitude and behavior gap suggests that these programs may be very valuable for increasing job opportunities for those with disabilities.
Third, a preferential hierarchy based on disability type persists, whereby workers with physical disabilities continue to be viewed more positively than workers with intellectual or psychiatric ones (Callahan, 1994; Hutchins, 1990; Johnson et al., 1988; Jones et al., 1991; Scheid, 1999). The relative success of vocational and supported-employment programs in securing jobs for those with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities underscores the necessity for policies that promote the development of these programs.
Lastly, prior trends indicating relationships between employer attitudes and (a) employers' level of academic attainment and (b) company size received inconsistent support and thus appear to be diminishing. A number of factors may account for the diminishing effect of company size and academic attainment, including increased informational and educational campaigns, more positive portrayals of people with disabilities in the media, and greater exposure to these individuals in social and work settings.
A new contribution to this body of research is that employers are quite positive about workers who were placed by vocational, employment, and supported-employment programs (Cook et al., 1994; Cooper, 1991; Eigenbrood & Retish, 1988; Kregel & Unger, 1993; Nietupski et al., 1996; Petty & Fussell, 1997; Sandys, 1994; Shafer et al., 1987; Wilgosh & Mueller, 1989). Studies supporting the efficacy of supported-employment programs are promising because employers remain concerned about workers with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities. Positive findings from these studies also have implications for policy makers, vocational rehabilitation professionals, social service providers, and people with disabilities. Supported and competitive employment programs are clearly having a positive impact on both employment opportunities and employer attitudes.
Finally, as the disability rights movement strengthens, researchers could also begin to develop studies that focus on the abilities of applicants and workers with disabilities (Miller & Keys, 1996). This information would not only broaden this body of research, but also would provide a more complete and realistic representation of workers with disabilities and employer attitudes. People with disabilities now have a law that protects their civil rights in the employment arena. Although their job opportunities should increase, in some cases, negative employer attitudes continue to be a barrier. This review supports the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce as fully as possible. Such positive experiences tend to erode these attitudinal barriers and thus ultimately increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
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Brigida Hernandez Northwestern University
Christopher Keys Fabricio Balcazar University of Illinois at Chicago
Brigida Hernandez, Ph.D., Department of Disability and Human Development, 1640 W. Roosevelt Rd., Chicago, IL 60608. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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|Title Annotation:||Americans with Disabilities Act|
|Publication:||The Journal of Rehabilitation|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2000|
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